From €8.30, 1,800 Japanese yen, 93 Danish krone, £11, 17 Swiss francs, AU$34.95
Loire wines in general have been absurdly neglected and underpriced. We have tried to do a little to draw them to the attention of wine lovers. See, for example, this year my two recent articles singing the praises of Mature Chinon, The Loire baton is passed and the accompanying tasting notes.
When considering value in today's wine market (such as in last year's Save your pennies), the two wines that have regularly and immediately sprung to mind are the Beaujolais that Julia has reported on so comprehensively this week in Beaujolais – the 10 crus dissected and Beaujolais – mapped and sipped, and Muscadet.
I happen to have come across recently some stellar evidence of how great Muscadet can be and can't resist drawing your attention to this. Disregard – or rather embrace – those low prices! The other day when at Crillon-le-Brave in Provence, Nick and I encountered one of those great sommeliers who keeps surprising diners with his finds. The most stunning, and perplexing, wine he poured for us was Vincent Caillé, Monnières St-Fiacre 2012 Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine. If I had had my MW candidate skills honed I might have worked out it was a mature Muscadet but as it was I was simply blown away by its beautiful texture, fresh pungency, obviously low acidity, relatively low alcohol (12%) but great saline purity and complexity. This certified organic wine is alas no longer commercially available but could not have had a greater satisfaction quotient. Talk about ticking all the boxes…
This lovely wine, like so many Loire wines, carries far too many names for today's internet search world. In the Loire virtually all producers are known by the name of the person who makes the wine and by the name of the property. Thus the Vincent Caillé wine may also be known as from Domaine Fay d'Homme (he, incidentally, supplies grapes for this previous wine of the week).
The producer of today's wine of the week Bonnet-Huteau/Ch La Tarcière, Les Gautronnières 2015 Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine is known variously as Bonnet-Huteau and Château La Tarcière. It doesn't (yet?) have the complexity of the 2012 (a great Muscadet vintage) described above but could not better embody the satisfyingly juicy and refreshing nature of young Muscadet. The Bonnet brothers Rémi (above) and Jean-Jacques (below) are fully signed up to wholemeal vine growing and were certified organic in 2009 before moving on to biodynamic viticulture for their 40 ha (100 acres) in 2010. Yields are limited to 40 hl/ha. Their grapes, Melon de Bourgogne from 20- to 30-year-old vines, are all picked by hand – unusually for Muscadet. The wine was aged on lees for six months (and I actually preferred it to the longer-aged 2013 Goulaine bottling that I tasted at the same time). My tasting note:
'Good cut and vivacity. Mouth-filling fruit. So straightforward and of its place: cool, calm and collected. Nice label too. There's a beginning, middle and end to this wine with its hint of saltiness. VGV (very good value)'.
This wine would make a quite delicious aperitif – and teaching aid for anyone wanting to learn what quintessential top-quality young Muscadet tastes like. Although it's already delicious (more delicious than the 2016 Muscadet from Virgin Wines tasted alongside), I don't think there's any desperate hurry to drink this. I'd be intrigued to try it in three or four years' time. It's wonderful to find so much flavour in a wine that has only 11.8% alcohol. The total sulphite level is less than 50 mg/l and 25,000 bottles were filled.
The Bonnets try to keep grapes from different soil types separate and Gautronnières is grown on slightly elevated gabbro (an igneous type of rock) and amphibolite (a metamorphic rock). Goulaine is grown on gneiss and schist, by the way. Julia included an extremely enthusiastic note on their Les Laures 2015 grown on granite in her tasting article Two great vintages in the Loire (2014 and 2015).
I was introduced to these wines by Shropshire wine merchant Tanners, who are specially featuring a selection of Muscadets currently. You can see their range here. Prices are ridiculously low: £7 to £14.95 a bottle.
One of the more expensive wines in their collection, Jérémie Huchet/Dom de la Chauvinière/Granit de Château Thébaud 2010 Muscadet-Sevre et Maine, is also stunning and also soil-specific (guess which?). It has benefited from extended time on lees and then many years in bottle so has taken on far more flavour than the price suggests, even if it is quite different in style from the simple, youthful, transparent juiciness of the Bonnets' young wine. My tasting note:
'Still full of grip albeit with a slightly aged waxiness to it. Admirable proof of Muscadet's ageability. But still fresh and exremely appetising and juicy, with some saltiness. Great stuff and only 12%! VGV (only £14).'
Fellow wine writer Chris Kissack points out that the famously granitic Château-Thébaud commune is one of the proposed crus for which documents have gone before the INAO commission this summer. The expectation is that it will be ratified this year (along with Monnières St Fiacre, Mouzillon-Tillières and Goulaine), joining the three ratified in 2011 (Gorges, Clisson and Le Pallet). It's great to see this large appellation being delineated more precisely.
According to good old wine-searcher.com, this maturing wine is still available for a song from merchants in France and Switzerland as well as three in the UK.
I commend both these wines to you wholeheartedly.