France: Loire Valley

Around Nantes

Muscadet and the Vendée
By Jim Budd

This Guide was last updated on 23 April 2011
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Main grape varieties

Red

Gamay
A little in the Pays Nantais for reds and for rosé. More successful in the Vendée.

Cabernet Franc
Similar to Gamay in the Pays Nantais: more successful in the Vendée.

Negrette
This is a real curiosity. Negrette is the main grape in the Côtes de Frontonnais down in South-West France and is also found in neighbouring Gaillac. For some reason it is also grown in the Vendée making deep coloured, attractive but slightly rustic reds. Usually part of a blend.

Pinot Noir
Normally confined to eastern Touraine and the Loire’s central vineyards, Pinot Noir suddenly pops up again in the Vendée.


White

Melon de Bourgogne (also known as Muscadet)
As the name suggests this variety originally came from Burgundy. An early ripener it is well adapted to the region’s maritime climate. Ready to pick in early to mid-September, the harvest is usually over before the arrival of autumn storms from the Atlantic. It has a misconceived reputation of being a high acid variety. This is due to producers picking it before it is ripe – a practice that some producers developed during Muscadet’s boom period of the late 1970s and the 1980s. This is much less prevalent now and the overall standard of Muscadet has greatly improved. Melon is quite a neutral variety and needs to be aged on its fine lees (the debris of dead yeast cells etc.) left behind after fermentation.

Gros Plant
This is the local name for the Folle Blanche, which is best known as a top quality grape for making Cognac and Armagnac. The high acidity and neutral flavour that makes it ideal for distillation are not always the attributes you want in a wine. As well as for Gros Plant VDQS still wines, a small amount of sparkling wine is also made.

Chardonnay
In the Nantais only entitled to be Vin de Pays du Val de Loire (formerly Jardin de la France). Probably planted mainly to spread the risk, so that growers are not just relying on Muscadet for their living, most Chardonnay here is unoaked. Also found in Fiefs Vendéens.

Chenin Blanc
A little planted in the Coteaux d’Ancenis generally making demi-sec or lightly sweet wines. Also in the Fiefs Vendéens where there are versions from dry to sweet.

Malvoisie
The Malvoisie is the speciality of Ancenis. Malvoisie is the local name for two Pinot grapes – Pinot Gris and Pinot Beurot. The wines are usually demi-sec.

Sauvignon Blanc
Like Chardonnay planted in Pays Nantais for varietal Vin de Pays wines and also used in the Fiefs Vendéens.


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