Dulwich Wine Society

Western Loire - Easter 2015

The 2015 DWS Trip was from 7th to 11th April to the Western Loire, staying at Best Western Villa Saint Antoine   *** in Clisson.

Following recent trends to visit an area that is experiencing a return to favour after years of under-performance , this year it was decided to visit the Western Loire. Muscadet’s reputation had slipped over the years – rather like Beaujolais – but like Beaujolais a new generation of winemakers has been at the forefront of a renaissance. Modern techniques in the vineyard and in the winery have borne fruit with much improved quality

This year our base was the Villa Ste. Antoine, a Best Western Hotel built in an old factory building straggling a river in the shadow of the magnificent château of Clisson. The weather on the first day was bright and warm and the early-arrivers found the extensive terrace the ideal place to start drinking! It was also the venue for the welcome reception before dinner.

Wednesday was fine but initially not so sunny for the first visit – to Domaine Clair Moreau. The owner is Edouard Massart, one time professional cyclist and formerly automotive engineer now l prize-winning vigneron. Here most people met the under-floor tanks for the first time. We learned that ”Muscadet-sur-lie” is kept on the lees for between six and eleven months. Moreau has wines kept on the lees for more than two years lees contact. Its Château Thebaud can only be called Muscadet. It is a wine the lasts for upwards of ten years, with fullness and complexity. He also makes excellent quality “sur-Lie” wines as well as surprisingly good reds.

The next stop was Domaine de la Grange in Mouzillon, owned by Béatrice and Dominique Hardy. Béatrice welcomed us among the vines (grown under “Terra Vitis” principles and then led the group through the new visitors room to the winery, where Dominique showed us a range of his Muscadets. Back then o the reception area where Béatrice presided over lunch, with smoked ham grilled over a large, smoky open fire. More of their wines for an accompaniment and a delicious dessert.

Replete the group moved on to the town of Vallet and the Domaine Moulin Camus, owned by Catherine and Francis Boulanger. The entrance is in what seems to be a suburban street – but inside is an interesting winery with some unusual features. As well as a range of Muscadets they make a modern-style Gros Plant and a Chardonnay (they use that grape to make a fine Traditional Method sparkling wine). A Gamay and a Cabernet Franc showed skill in producing red wine in a predominately white wine area.

The Vendée is a little known region which has few producers but these few are producing some excellent wine. It stretches between the Loire and the Medoc. It benefits from the influence of the Atlantic. (One of the better-known producers grows grapes on one of the offshore islands)

Our first visit was to the village of Vix and the “Prieuré La Chaume”. At the southernmost vineyard of the Loire Valley Christian Chabeaud makes some of the best Fiefs-Vendéens, some positively Bordeaux-like, one from Merlot. Cabinet and Negrette . He was at one time head of publicity for the whole of Champagne but headed back to his native village and bought what was thought of as the worst farm in the commune “for the price of a car”. Using organic and partially biodynamic methods his wines have a growing reputation. It was a memorable visit.

After a pause for lunch in the attractive town of Fontenay-le-Comte we went to nearby Pissotte and Domaine Coirier, Mathieu Coirier’s family estate is less than half-an-hour from La Chaume but the soil and micro-climate in Pissotte means that his wines are quite different. Matthieu was away but his father presented a great range of wines while the group sat around in the garden, taking advantage of the warm sunshine.

It had been a long day’s driving but well worthwhile.

On Friday morning we went to Chéreau-Carré: One of the largest and most highly regarded makers in the region it has several distinct vineyards making Muscadet showing differences in terroir. (They sell to the Wine Society and make the Society’s own label Muscadet.) The winery in St.Fiacre is one of the most beautiful you will see anywhere. Bernard Chereau guided the group through the historic grounds and into the beautifully appointed and decorated winery and cellar to taste his excellent wines.

The traditional last night dinner was in an elegant room at La Bonne Aubgerge in Clisson where Madame Poiron and her most amiable staff created an almost festive atmosphere in which to enjoy her husband’s exceptional cooking.