Loire Valley - Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine - Domaine Pierre-Luc Bouchaud
Domaine Pierre-Luc Bouchaud - Muscadet de Sevre et Maine
Muscadet is a wine appellation located in the far western part of the Loire Valley, just outside the city of Nantes and not far from where the Loire empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Soils in Muscadet vary from chalk to schist to granite, with various amounts of clay and sand composing the topsoil. The grape used in Muscadet is Melon de Bourgogne which often produces neutral and acidic wines. Because of the grape’s neutrality, it is often the soil type that, in conjunction with the amount of time the wine spends on its lees, ultimately determines the richness and complexity of the wine.
Muscadet gained its AOC in 1936 and, during the 1970s and 1980s, experienced widespread appeal around the world. Unfortunately this led to increased yields to satiate demand, something that ultimately led to Muscadet’s falling out of favor with the same fans it had initially seduced. The appellation is huge, spanning nearly 55 miles and producing more white wine than any other region of France. Since 2005, renewed interest has been focused on Muscadet, with many winemakers bottling specific soil types separately, reducing yields, aging their wines longer on their lees while achieving more complexity, minerality and length.
Pierre-Luc Bouchaud comes from a line of several generations of grape growers. After graduation from university with a BTS in 1987, he returned to his family domaine and soon took over for his father. Over the next 20 years, he expanded his vineyards from 11 hectares to 19 hectares. His winery is located next to his home in the town of St. Fiacre-sur-Maine, the community that grows more grapes than any other in France. Coincidently, it is also the hometown of Catherine Quénard, the wife of Savoyard producer Jean-François Quénard.
Bouchaud is a firm believer in sustainable viticulture, plowing his soil and using organic composts and only spraying when absolutely necessary. The grapes are crushed, the juice is fermented and the wine is aged on its lees in stainless steel tanks until bottling, which normally takes place in the late spring. In 2006, Bouchaud was the rare recipient of the Prix d’Excellence for receiving top notes over the course of five years at the Concours General Agricole in Paris.
We import two different Muscadets from Bouchaud, grown on two different soil types. It is especially fascinating (and highly enjoyable) tasting them side by side.
Pierre-Luc Bouchaud Pont Caffino
This is the name of parcel of vines which make up the cru Château-Thebaud, located where the Sevre and Maine rivers meet. Unlike Le Perd son Pain’s schist soil, this cuvée is made granite terrain, with vines planted just above a ledge overlooking the rivers. While Bouchaud does release a Chateau Thebaud wine in certain vintages, Pont Caffino is released every year with a similar vinification to Le Perd Son Pain in an effort to show off its more intense minerality without the dominant yeasty notes that arrive with prolonged aging sur lie. Granite seems to make the aromas pop a bit more than schist, and give it a slightly leaner, higher acid texture.
Tasting notes: Aromas include green apple and pear pith, along with some stony grip on the finish.
Pierre-Luc Bouchaud Le Perd Son Pain: Translated literally to lose one’s bread, it is said that this parcel with schist close to the soil was not appropriate to anything but vines, as wheat and barley were lost on these hard, arid soils. Atop the schist in the 10 hectares parcel is a thin layer of silt and sandy soil. Yields of the 50 year-old vines are, on average, 55 hl/ha. The grapes are pressed gently, then go into tank. After a cold soak of approximately 8 hours, the temperature in the tanks is raised and fermentation begins. The final alcoholic degree normally is between 12% and 12.5%. The wine rests sur lie for 7 months after the end of fermentation, with some lees stirring depending on the vintage.
Tasting notes: This wine has a lovely mineraled texture, with flavors that include citrus, green apple and melon.