Chateau de la Gravelle, Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, AOP Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Gorges, Pays de La Loire, France, 2007
Pays Nantais: Located close to the Atlantic coast, the climate is mild and maritime, with risk of rain throughout the year. The high humidity means powdery mildew is bound to be a problem, typically treated with copper sulphate and hydrated lime aka Bordeaux mixture, but there are some organic sprays eg based on citrus and garlic, as used in English vineyards.
Soils vary, with clay, gabbro, gneiss, granite, sand and schist.
The grape of Muscadet is melon de Bourgogne (aka muscadet, plant de bourgogne).
There are four AOC/AOP Muscadet appellations, all of which can be labeled sur lie (which is a production process and not an appellation): Muscadet, Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu, and Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire. The best wines are to be found in the Sevre et Maine sector.
To be classified as sur lie, Muscadet, as above, must lie on the fine lees of fermentation, in vat or wood, to between 01 March and 30 November of the year following harvest. The idea of ageing on the lees is to give some extra character to what can be a fairly nondescript variety, by preserving freshness, adding a slight prickle (to keep this the wine cannot be racked), enhancing the body and adding another flavour dimension.
In July 2011, 3 villages were promoted to a newly created Cru Communau. Considered a step above the rest and expressive of their terroir, they have defined areas of production (map and soils), tighter yields (just 45hl/ha) than the plain AOC with 65hl/ha, and longer minimum lees ageing. However as of June 2016 the INAO website indicated that just two of these, Gorges and Clisson had been elevated. The wines are classed as still rather than sur lie, as the sur lie regulations restrict the period of lees ageing, above, whilst the Crus Communaux are given extended lees ageing, perhaps up to 3 years. Though ready to drink on release, they are also intended to suit extended cellaring, to develop depth of flavour and complexity in bottle, over a decade or more. They are labelled as eg AOC/AOP Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clisson.
This wine: volcanic soils (gabbro), 70y.o. vines, organic, varietal melon de Bourgogne, lees ageing without racking for 24-36 months; natural cork closure, 12% abv, Gauntleys, £12.25 (2016).
Consumer tasting note: a nose of crystallised lemon, in fact all things lemon – pith and zest, grapefruit, with a touch of apple, almond oil, daffodil – a first, and honey, with a little CO2 showing as small bubbles; plenty of grip from lees ageing, medium-full bodied with a mid-palate of ripe citrus, baked apple, and honeyed dried citrus. A medium-long length. Decant for 30 minutes.
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, medium intensity gold, showing tears and small bubbles.
Nose: clean, medium (+) intensity, developing, with aromas as they come, of crystallised lemon, lemon pith, over-ripe cooking apple, touch of almond oil, lemon zest, a floral daffodil-like note, warm grapefruit flesh, thin honey, and after some time a hint of fennel.
Palate: dry, medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, medium (+) body, medium (+) intensity, a smooth texture with a moderate grip, no evidence of CO2, with flavours of ripe citrus, hints of baked apple, almond oil, warm honey, with dried citrus hints at the end. A medium (+) length with a clean honeyed-citrus finish with a moderate grip.
Quality: very good, balanced acidity with alcohol, all harmonious with flavor intensity, showing moderate complexity and some tertiary development from bottle age, with notes of honey, dried citrus and nuttiness, courtesy of the almond oil note; showing moderate grip and body beyond its abv, from lees ageing which adds grip, body and a smooth texture, a good level of concentration. Showing some transient visible CO2, indicating lees ageing without racking, and no stirring nor use of neutral oak. A good length.
Readiness for drinking/ageing potential: drink now, unsuited to further aging, but will hold for 1-2 years – a sound structure, already pretty well-developed.