Muscadet and the Vendée
By Jim Budd
This Guide was last updated on 23 April 2011
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With 12,900 hectares of vines Muscadet is easily the largest appellation in the Loire and one of the biggest in France. The only variety used is Melon de Bourgogne (also known as Muscadet). The best Muscadet comes from the three zones: the Sèvre et Maine, Côtes de Grandlieu and the Coteaux du Loire and ought also to be bottled sur lie (see ‘Wine styles’). The Sèvre et Maine is easily the largest area – accounting for around 85% of the zonal Muscadets and lies to the south of Nantes and centres on the Sèvre and Maine rivers. The Côtes de Grandlieu vineyards lie around the Lac de Grandlieu and Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire to the east of Nantes and around the town of Ancenis on both banks of the Loire. Muscadet sur lie must be bottled in the year following the vintage between March and the end of November.
Made from the eponymous grape variety, the area planted with Gros Plant (also called Folle Blanche) is declining and there are now only 1400ha planted. Gros Plant is one of the few remaining Vin Delimité Qualité Superieur (VDQS) wines in France – a definition that trips off the tongue and is due to disappear in 2011. The producers of Gros Plant have opted not to apply for appellation status. Instead they will become a vin Vin de Pays with greater flexibility over the grape varieties they can use. I suspect that although 100% Gros Plant won’t disappear it will become increasingly difficult to find.
Centered on the town of Ancenis and on both sides of the Loire, the 240-hectares of vines cover virtually the same area as Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire. This VDQS is best known for its Malvoisie, which is can be either dry or sweet. Applying for appellation status.
Just over 100km from Nantes, There are 450ha planted here. Nearly 90% of the production is red and rosé with Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Grolleau, Pinot Noir and, surprisingly, Negrette – the grape of the Frontonnais close to Toulouse – planted. Either Gamay or Pinot Noir must make up at least 50% of the vines planted for the reds. For the whites it is Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Melon and Sauvignon. The whites are blends – Chenin should make up at least 50% with Chardonnay and Sauvignon the other two varieties allowed. In the communes of the appropriately named Pissotte and Vix up to 15% of Melon can be planted. Applying for appellation status.
The main designation used is the regional IGP du Val de Loire, which covers 13 departments in the Loire Valley from the Allier to the Atlantic Ocean. This used to be called Vin de Pays du Val de Loire but the name was changed in 2010. There are two local IGP designations – IGP de Vendée and IGP de la Loire-Atlantique – but these are rarely seen. The most popular Vin de Pays wine in the Nantais is easy drinking Chardonnay.
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