Muscadet Vignerons Seek Wine’s ‘Next Big Thing’ in Loire Rocks
on 20/02/12 at 10:38 amWine
“As my boots crunch through snow, Pierre-Marie Luneau hands me a chunk of serpentinite rock in his vineyard on La Butte de la Roche. Like all the best Muscadet producers, Luneau is obsessed with how soil affects a wine’s quality.
Muscadet is typecast as a gulpable, fresh, crisp white wine ideally paired with oysters. And in this huge region in the west of France’s Loire Valley there’s always been plenty of plonk.
On a recent tasting trek, though, I discovered just how serious this bargain white is becoming. The Luneaus are among several dozen vignerons busy reinventing it.
Their Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin, like most of the top estates, is in the smaller Muscadet Sevre et Maine area. It has more than 30 separate plots with five types of terroir in four villages.
“Our eight Muscadets,” Luneau says, “express the mineral personalities of these different spots.”
From La Butte de la Roche, a hill whose rocks were pushed up millennia ago by underground earthquakes, I can see the ice on the frozen marsh dotted with small islands sparkling in the sun.
Later, warmed after our vineyard tour by heaters in the domaine’s spacious tasting room, we sample his range of Muscadets over lunch. Luneau describes the terroir of each, adding that 2009 and 2010 are exceptional vintages.
Thick slabs of foie gras, made by his mother Monique, accompany the 2009 Terre de Pierre ($23) from the La Butte de la Roche vineyard. The wine is long and layered, with pineapple and mineral flavors that seem to shimmer on the palate.
By contrast, the ripe, round 2009 Le ‘L’ d’Or ($20), whose vines grow on granite, shows more power and richness.”