Muscadet’s producers are hoping to raise the region’s profile with a new classed growth system, which includes a newly sophisticated layer.
FOR A region as misunderstood as Muscadet, the implementation of a cru system may seem a little over ambitious.
Nonetheless, for the producers a swing towards more premium products – and therefore higher prices – may be one of the best ways of raising the profile of the region and, in doing so, change attitudes.
The idea is to create a “quality pyramid” for want of a better expression. Generic Muscadet forms the base, with Muscadet from the regions of Sèvre & Maine, Coteaux de la Loire and Côtes de
Grandlieu providing a middle and finally the new crus communaux being the apex wines.
The emergence of these wines comes after 10 years of hard work on the “base”. Since the dropping off in consistency which so damaged Muscadet’s reputation, there has been a turnaround in the quality of everyday Muscadet which has led prominent critics such as Jancis Robinson MW to urge consumers to return to drinking these wines.
The crus communaux represent a newly sophisticated layer to the Muscadet offering. The cru style has in fact existed for a while. For many years producers have left their wines longer on the lees, using smaller yields and from specific sites. On this the crus have been based. They aren’t allowed to use the sur lie title for a couple of reasons. Firstly, although cru wines are aged on their lees, they are bottled long after the November the following year limit assigned to ordinary sur lie; furthermore, they lack the spritz that consumers associate with Muscadet and normal sur lie so the omission of that denominator is designed to limit consumer confusion.
Currently, three crus have been recognised by the INAO. Situated in the Sèvre & Maine sub-region of the Nantais, they cover the villages of Gorges, Clisson and Le Pallet.
Four more villages in the area are hoping to be recognised by next year, Goulaine, Monieres-St-Fiacre, Château Thébaud and Mouzillon-Tillieres, while another two are beginning the process and will not be recognised for several years yet – La Haye Fouassière and Vallet.
The current area classed as “cru” is still tiny in comparison to the rest of the region: 200 hectares and around 5,000 hectolitres out of the 2,500ha in Sèvre and Maine alone and the 9,000ha and 450,000hl produced in the wider region.
Nonetheless, many producers see the development of the crus communaux as symptomatic of the wider revitalisation of the appellation.