Calvados just might be my favorite winter time sipper! Thanks for the producer recommendations Michael Markarian, Daniel Veit, Sean Dowling, Darla Hoffmann, Jeremy Eubanks and Frederic Monnery.
This week: Sub zones of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine
What are they and what are the soils/characteristics/etc plus name a producer of each.
The three sub zones of Muscadet Sévre-et-Maine were given official cru communaux status in 2011. Each is located near the Sévre Nantaise river as it snakes southeast away from Nantes. First comes Le Pallet, followed by Gorges, and finally Clisson.
Le Pallet is located on the right bank of the river, and is distinguished for its warm microclimate, in relation to the other crus, which means an earlier harvest for producers. The soils are shallow and stony on a bed of gneiss and gabros (local term for the metamorphic ocean bedrock), conditions that support deep rooting. Le Pallet produces wines with fresh fruit and floral aromatics. A minimum of 17 months of lees aging is required. Jubilation Le Pallet is a wine bottled by a coop consisting of ten winemakers blending their best parcels together under one label.
Gorges straddles the river and has a more varied composition of soils. Gabros, clay and quartz can all be found. Gorges has the coolest climate of the three zones, and harvest typically happens later than for the others. The resulting wines have more linearity, with intense minerality and a distinctive smokey aroma. The wines are aged for a minimum 24 months on the lees. Kermit Lynch imports Domain Michel Brégeon's Muscadet Sévre-et-Maine 'Gorges', which is one of the most ageworthy wines in all of Muscadet Sévre-et-Maine.
Finally, Clisson has pebbly, stony soils over granite bedrock, allowing roots to delve deep. Twenty-four months of maturation is mandatory, and the wines are the most generous of the three crus. Dried fruits mingle with a rich, leesy texture, while a bit of salinity can also show in the wines. Domaine de la Pépière makes a beautiful expression from the Clisson cru.
None of the crus may be labeled sur lie, as their aging requirements extend beyond the maximum aging allowance for the designation. The minimal potential alcohol for all three crus is 11% with maximum yields capped at 45 hl/ha (as opposed to 10% and 55 hl/ha, respectively, for the general appelation).
Any idea when the other 7 crus (Chateau Thebaud, Champtoceaux, Goulaine, La Haye Fouassière, Mouzillon-Tillières, Monnières-Saint-Fiacre and Vallet) start coming on line? I've seen a couple of them on labels already (an unhealthy obsession with Muscadet will find oneself in strange places), buy they are't official.
Some favorite bottlings:
Clisson- Domaine de la Fruitier
Gorges- Vincent Caille
Let Pallet- ??? The one Ryan mentioned is the only I've ever seen. It's good, but this is clearly a second tier Cru.
Because I haven't had the pleasure of visiting the region, would you say Clisson is also on the right bank/is the quality of these crus determined just by the proximity to the river? They all seem to be directly on the banks.
I haven't myself been to the region either, but from all the resources I've read on the three I think that definitely helps to explain the quality, as is often the case with wine regions along rivers, i.e. the Mosel or Douro. Aspect and the moderating effects of the river will certainly affect the microclimates of each cru. Another major factor, I think many would agree, are the different soil structures.
Not just another major factor, soil types are THE driving force behind between delimiting the Cru Communaux. Certainly, the climate plays a factor (the grapes do have to be riper to be labeled by cru), but the Nantes have been very passionate about the soil types in creating these.
I'm still having a hard time understanding soil types. The basic Loire guide says the three sub zones have schist soil, though we all tend to mention granite, gabbro, and clay. How do these relate? Is this a poodle/dog situation?
First, soil is rarely homogeneous and we somms tend to want to put labels on soil type that don't give context to the actual environment. Soil is really far too complicated for most of us to understand, and even more complicated for us to understand why it causes a Vine to grow in a way that would give a different character in a bottle.
That said, check out the Muscadet website. It breaks down the soils of all 10 subzones in a pretty detailed way. You'll see that it's all a mishmash of multiple top and base layers.
La Pépière (Clisson, also sources fruit from Michel Brégeon to make their Gorges)
Vignerons du Pallet (Le Pallet)
Domaine Michel Brégeon (Gorges)