On the vanguard of progressive agriculture in AOC Muscadet, Domaine Brégeon has the added fortune of being located in the commune and cru of Gorges. With its gabbro soils, this site is arguably the best terroir for Muscadet. Gabbro, a blue-green volcanic rock formed by magma eruptions under the ocean floor, is rarely found in vineyard land. It is in large part responsible for this crisp blanc’s complexity and core of stony, zesty citrus. In addition to its terroir, the domaine’s farming and vinification practices help explain the appellation-defining quality you find in their wines. From the entry-level Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie to its grand cru sibling—Brégeon’s “Gorges” bottling—vigneron Frédéric Lailler goes above and beyond what is required by the appellation, with his hand harvesting, low yields, and (perhaps most important) organic farming. A native of Gorges, Fred returned to take over the domaine from André-Michel Brégeon because he is devoted to this often overlooked part of the Loire Valley as well as to the potential of the Melon de Bourgogne grape. His Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie—a match made in heaven for all matter of shellfish and light seafood dishes—shows Fred’s zeal for high-quality Muscadet.
Michel Brégeon is part renegade, part crusader, and full-blown terroirist, ardently defending the Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine terroir. Thanks to his deep understanding of the land, he plays the game much differently than the region’s caves cooperatives and negociants, who produce en masse and lose the subtlety of the appellation. He worked for his family’s domaine before setting out on his own in 1975. When his father retired in 1989, he gave his remaining vineyard land to Michel. Today, Michel farms seven hectares of vineyards in clay, silica, and gabbro soils. Gabbro is old, blue-green, volcanic rock, rarely found in vineyard land. Formed by magma eruptions under the ocean floor, it imparts intense complexity to Michel’s wines.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
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