Muscadet and other Loire wines from Sauvion, and some thoughts about Muscadet

Yes, it’s time for yet another set of “tasting notes lost and found”. In this case, of wines from Maison Sauvion in Loire. When I recently tasted a new vintage of one of their wines,  I realised that I never posted an English of my write-up of this tasting in November 2012, when their Swedish importer Stellan Kramer invited to a tasting. When you see Sauvion and Loire written together some of you may think “he can’t spell properly, surely that’s Sauvignon”, but this is a producer called Sauvion, while a grape variety that’s common in Loire indeed is called Sauvignon Blanc. And speaking of Sauvion, Pierre-Jean Sauvion was on location to answer questions.

Maison Sauvion and their Château du Cléray is located just outside Nantes in the western part of the Loire wine region, the part where the main product is Muscadet, a wine produced from the grape variety Melon de Bourgogne. Other than the geographically wider appellation Muscadet, there are three more narrowly delimited Muscadet appellations “with surnames”, Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine (the most common, and all Muscadets from Sauvions fall within this one), Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire and Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu. The appendix sur lie (“on the lees” = on the yeast deposit)  is common and means that the wine has stayed in contact with the lees at least until March the year after harvest, and has been bottled without filtration. This treatment tends to give a slightly more full-bodied wine.

It is interesting to see that Muscadet has started to come back onto the map. Well, from a geographical point of view, it has probably been sitting in the same place all the time, but I’m refering to the market presence in a number of export markets. A couple of years ago I was under the impression that Muscadet was hardly drunk at all in my native Sweden. Or rather, it wasn’t beeing drunk any more, which meant that those who had become interested in wine during recent years – over a decade – usually didn’t recognise it. I do know however that it used to be known as “the oyster wine”. I believe that the first time I tasted a Muscadet was 2006, in a wine course. On the other hand, in Belgium, where I lived 2008-2012, Muscadet was a common sight also on the shelves of supermarkets.

I asked Pierre-Jean Sauvion about the market situation in former times, and he said that the times had been rather good for the Muscadet growers until around 1990, and that the market position had been lost rather quickly after that. Sauvion had also been hit by a sharp drop in exports after the US boycott of French wines in 2003, following the invasion of Iraq. Those were the days of the “Freedom Fries” – probably the most ridiculous name ever given to a piece of potato – and as far as I know, Jacques Chirac didn’t consult any French wine producers, in Loire or elsewhere, about his Iraq policy before deciding how France would vote in the UN Security Council. Well, one US and two French presidents and ten years later, I hope that poor Muscadet isn’t blamed for anything political, and is judged on its purely vinous qualities.

What is fascinating about these wines is that they are so cheap. Muscadets must be the cheapest “classical” French white wines. When David Schildknecht wrote a large Loire profile in 2010 for Parker’s The Wine Adovate, he named Loire “Treasure Trove and Bargain Garden of France”, even though he didn’t give that much attention to the very cheapest part of Loire, i.e., Pay Nantais/Muscadet.

To me, there is some similarity in style between Muscadet and Chablis or Petit Chablis. The aromas may not be exactly the same, but what they have in common is their character of slender, elegant, mineral- and acid-driven white wines, with discrete fruit notes that don’t derive from any pronounced “varietal perfume” (which is the case for e.g. Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc). Those of like Chablis at least a little bit and still haven’t tried a Muscadet should definitely do so! And if several years have passed since the last time, you should definitely renew your acquaintance.

Sauvion also produces wines from other parts of Loire than Muscadet, and some of those were included as well.

One fresh tasting note from August 2012

Château du Cléray 2012
Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sur lie

Appearance: Pale yellow, slightly greenish hue.
Nose with slightly fruity notes of mostly pear, noticeable minerality, hints of elderflower.
The palate is medium-bodied, very dry, shows a strong mineral attack with impressions of salt and some mineral water, some pear and citrus, good acidity. The aftertaste is long and fresh with mineral and some bitterness.
In principle not a wine that demands cellaring, but it probably wouldn’t be a problem if the bottles were forgotten until next year. Perhaps that would reduce the fruity note in the nose. 86 p.

Possibly, the 2011 was a notch better, but this is a great wine for its price. Works well as aperitif and with seafood.

The rest of the tasting notes are from November 2012!

Crémant de Loire Blanc
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.

Nose: apple, citrus, slightly flowery, some mineral with a hint of smoke.
Palate: noticeably apply with green apples (Granny Smith?), high acidity, dry and firm style.
Summary: rather typical for a young Crémant de Loire. Young, but should probably be consumed in that state. 83 p.

Muscadet Primeur 2012
Muscadet-Sèvre et Main

Nose: noticeably flowery and fruity notes, white currants, hints of gooseberries and some fruit essence.
Palate: strong mineral notes, cool impression, very dry, high acidity.
Summary: slightly difficult to evaluate, I have little previous experience from primeur/”noveau” wines of this grape variety (or white primeur wines at all, unless Federweisser is included). The palate is as its should but the nose gives a completely different impression than a regular Muscadet with the usual time on the lees. 85 p?

Château du Cléray 2011
Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sur lie

Nose: cool impression of green and yellow fruit, including apple, and a slightly flowery note.
Palate: very dry, very mineral with a salty note, high acidity, fruit notes including green apple, slender style.
Summary: firm and classical, young but shouldn’t necessarily be cellared. 87 p.

Should work excellent on its own in the role as boney dry aperitif wine, in the classical role as oyster wine, or to other seafood severed more or less au naturel. While cheap, it is definitely better (firmer in taste and purer in its notes) than many supermarket-sold Muscadets that I used to sample in Belgium a couple of years ago.

Cardinal Richard 2011
Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sur lie

Nose: green and yellow fruit, some gooseberry and apple.
Palate: very dry, very mineral with a salty note, a bit of body with some oiliness and a hint of bitterness, high acidity.
Summary: foody and very firm style, young, could probably improve with cellaring. 88+ p.

This wine is a bit more full-bodied than Château du Cléray, which means that it should have a wider range of uses as food wine, and should e.g. work well with fish and seafood dishes with sauces. I also believe that this wine has the build a Muscadet should have if it should be cellared for a couple of years, which admittedly may be something for more experimentally oriented people.

Sancerre Les Fondettes 2011
Sancerre, “upper” Loire. Grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc.

Nose: fruity with noticeably green aromas, gooseberry, some nettle, citrus
Palate: good concentration of fruit, dry, citrus, gooseberry, high acidity, mineral, medium body. Aftertaste of citrus and gooseberry.
Summary: classical Sancerre style, firm, young. 87 p.

Vouvray Les Bosquets 2011
Vouvray, “middle” Loire. Grape variety: Chenin Blanc.

Nose: yellow apple, ripe fruit, hints of honey, slightly spicy, discrete flowery notes.
Palate: some sweetness of fruit going almost in the off-dry direction, ripe yellow apples, some honey, high acidity, a hint of spice and hints of mineral. Aftertaste with apple and grapefruit.
Summary: young, 85 p.

This wine was slightly surprising, because it was produced in another style than the other Sauvion wines, less dry and firm. Chenin Blanc can of course give slightly more powerful wines than the other common Loire white wine grapes, and it is a variety suitable across the range from dry to sweet, so I don’t mind the wine as such. But it is not difficult to find a Vouvray that come across as considerably drier than this, so it wasn’t in the style I expected.

Finally a red wine:

Chinon Dilection 2010
Chinon, “middle” Loire. Grape variety: Cabernet Franc.

Appearance: medium red, clear, just a hint of purple hue.
Nose: black and red currants, some tar, a hint of green notes.
Palate: black and red currants, some tar, good acidity, medium tannin.
Summary: young, but a style that probably is suitable for drinking young, i.e., where the acidity balances the tannic impression. 86 p.

Summing up my impressions of the Sauvion wines, I’d say that they were firm, dry and rather slender (the Vouvray excluded), in an “honest” style typical for their respective appellations.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

This entry was posted in 2011, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Loire, Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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