I've been to the Nantes to Marc Ollivier's Muscadet-a-thon maybe four times. Others who tag along religiously with the LDM crowd year-to-year, have been there more. But I've been blessed with enough festivity in that rustic winery filled with underground cement tanks, that the day has the pinch of a reunion.
The format remains the same year to year. We taste through Domaine de la Pépière's new cuvées. Then we traipse off to freeze amongst the vines. Then we eat as we taste through old, older and oldest vintages proving that muscadet is the new chablis.
The late January day was cold, quite cold. The 2010s were tasting delicious. Angular, fennel, lively, smoked lettuce-like with long, piercing finishes of lemon cream. In fact I was thinking, 2010 was the year that Muscadet is going to be put on the map. All of those who praise the 2009 in Beaujo vintage? This is 2010 for melon. Right? Right! Futures of muscadet. Let's hear it.
All of those people who toil like bandits on a jewel heist to work their land without chemicals and hand pick when they could machine harvest for a wine they can sell for $10-$15 a bottle? Hell, they're going to get their due and their glory. Who knows, the INAO might even let them refer to their terroir on the label instead of insisting on the name of a town, the reason that the previous Cuvée Granite is now called Clisson. (which seems to be an almost sadistic move.)
In 2010, their ship is will come to shore, bearing riches. And if you believe that one, you'll also believe that I'll sell my next wine book for $300k and you'll also believe in spinning wheat into gold and in the humanity of all man.
Guess which one is Marc's vineyard? This is a gorgeous example of what chemical farming looks like next to organic. The scorched earth is still common in the area. Which land's gifts do you want to drink?
You have to wonder what about the sanity of people like Marc, Jo Landron Guy Bossard, Marc Pesnot, Jacques Carroget, who slave over their land as if they were going to extract a Vosne Romanée instead of a, well, Clos des Briords.
I mean, if I didn't live in a walk up with a bathtub in the kitchen I might think they were insane If I went into banking, I might wonder the same thing. Why do these people work the way they do when the others around them just grow grapes and process them into wine?
Sometimes life is reduced to being able to look at yourself in the morning directly in the eyes and pull out a piece of dense, crusty bread and shove it in your mouth while you're banging on a bottle with a shoe to extract a cork. Simple pleasures. If only.
When I see people like Marc,
I know I'm self-serving. Because if I can help them make a living, then their wines will be available for me to drink, because good muscadet is as precious to me or even more precious, than Corton-Chuck or Meursault. In fact even if I ever get that hefty advance, my white heart will belong to muscadet (okay, with some chenin and maybe listan blanco and savagnin for good measure. Of late I've been quite take with macabeu as well. I guess I can add vermentino, albariño and godello.)
The wood fire flicked with crazy tongues in winery, the food, a parade of things from the sea with hardback shells, kept on coming. The wines got older and older and the conversation got raunchier and raunchier. I walked outside and there was David Lillie walking in a pony-tailed guest with bottles. It was Michel Brégeon, a venerable muscadet producer.
Bregon has recently been celebrated in the French press, but David said to me, too much too late. And he didn't know if he was going to survive. Money, when your wines sell for $12.99 in the states, well it just doesn't fill the bank. But never the less, he seemed happy, and the wines were delicious. Looking at me taste them, David said, "Loaded with sulfur."
And I thought, now, how did I become the poster child for sans soufre wines?
That night I walked across the bridge into Saumur with a friend looking for wine and food. There was a bar near the hotel we had gone into the night before, a bar with a black light that made the white fluffy dog look blue. Above the bar was a string of panties, looking more like scalps than laundry. Three of us sat having a depressing drink. My scotch had been watered. I was glad it hadn't been pissed. The town had nothing opened but at least it was pure and no black lights to increase the sadness or to take the taste of the sweet day away.
As indicated, most of the area produces sub-par wines. Drink carefully and drink happily.
1) Domaine de la Pépière
2) Andre-Michel Brégeon
4) Domaine Paonniere (Jacques Carroget & you won't find this in the US)
5) Domaine de la Louvetrie (Jo Landron)
6) Domaine Senechaliere (Marc Pesnot)
7) Domaine de l'Ecu (Guy Bossard)