Domaine des Tilleuls Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie
When you have spent a long time drinking, enjoying, thinking about and, in my case, writing about wine, it is easy to become a little jaded. New experiences are increasingly rare, at times seeming non-existent. You can only discover a new variety, a new appellation or new domaine once; after that it becomes part of your personal wine story, a discovery you will always look back on every time you encounter that variety, appellation or domaine in the future. You might look back upon it with a sense of joy, or perhaps with a sense of dismay (especially if it is a wine from Bordeaux and it is going to cost you four times what you last paid to stock up on a more recent vintage), but the key is you will always be looking back, rather than living in the moment of discovery.
If you find yourself in this situation, you probably end up relying now on the sheer quality of the bottles you open to give your palate a kick. This is certainly where I am, and fortunately this year I have been quite lucky; I have been drinking some really good Loire reds from 2003, some exceptional Rioja and Bordeaux from 1998, looking good at twenty years of age, as well as some 2003 Bordeaux which – provided you bought the right wines, easier said than done in a vintage with no precedents – seems to be in a fantastic place right now. And the sweet wines from the Loire I have been popping the corks on recently, also from 2003 but also 1990 and 1989, have been a delight.
Even so, I still hanker for the days when an unfamiliar wine could walk up to me and slap me in the face, a rude but fabulous introduction to something very new, something brilliant. These are the wines that set pulses racing, and they come along only rarely. Remarkably, though, I have had two such experiences in the past few months. Neither came from an unfamiliar domaine, variety or vintage, but both really impressed. One concerned a truly stunning young Vouvray, a wine that seemed to redefine its domaine of origin, and I am sure it I will get around to writing about it as a Weekend Wine before long, because within a few days of tasting that trial bottle I bought another six, and I am itching to open one of them. The second wine, as you might guess, was a Muscadet, none other than the 2017 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Essentielle from Domaine des Tilleuls.
This is not an exalted cuvée for this domaine, which produces several grander wines, including an admirable old vines selection, and which is currently engaged in the development of Vallet, the latest commune to throw its hat into the cru communal ring. The vines, which are aged between 15 and 30 years, are farmed in a raisonnée style, and picked at a yield of about 45 hl/ha. The vinification is very classic; the fruit is pressed, there is a cold settling, then a cool fermentation and a short élevage, for about six months, on the lees, in subterranean cuves typical of the Pays Nantais. The commitment of the Houssin family, proprietors of this domaine, perhaps comes through best in the closure, which is a DIAM 1, an admirable investment in quality and consumer experience for such a domaine.
In the glass this is classically styled and yet nothing short of exuberant. It has a very pale hue, showing barely a tingle of apple green. And there follows a delightfully classic aromatic profile, in a very giving style, quite expressive, but also smoky and minerally, with salted pear and bitter citrus pith suggestions. The palate doesn’t disappoint, showing a deliciously bitter style sitting within a certain succulence and volume of texture, and this does not detract from the character of the palate which is full of pebbles, salt, pear skin and apples, before revealing in the finish a sudden twist of bright orange citrus flavour. This is a wine of moderate acid freshness, with great charm, and it has a little intriguing bitterness to its length. A deliciously approachable entry-level Muscadet, providing great value, and with that DIAM closure, no risk of cork taint too. It is because of bottles like this, which would wake up even the most jaded of palates, that my interest in wine is still alive. Well done! 93/100 (6/8/18)
Read more in:
- My guide to Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
- My report on the Loire 2017 vintage
- My guide to Melon de Bourgogne