Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet Sur Lie 2001
Built by the noble Loré de la Ragotiere family in the fourteenth century, Château de la Ragotière was purchased in 1979 by the Couillaud brothers. After acquiring the property, Bernard, François and Michel discovered an old cellar in the chapel housing vintages dating back to 1947. The Couillaud brothers strive to carry on the tradition of making high quality, long-lasting Muscadets. In addition to their Muscadet, the Couillaud brothers produce estate bottled Chardonnay under the Domaine de Bernier and Les Frères Couillaud labels. The wines are from 15 year old vines and 8% of the Bernier Chardonnay is barrel-fermented in French oak. The remainder, like their Muscadet, is aged “sur lie” in tanks, creating Chardonnays with lively acidity.
The Sèvre and Maine rivers converge and flow into the Loire river just before it meets the sea at the border of Brittany, creating the richest vineyard land in Muscadet. Ragotière’s holdings consist of 55 hectares including 25 hectars of the finest Muscadet vineyards in the Appellation Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, with the vines averaging over 25 years of age.
Nearly synonymous with fine wine and all things epicurean, France has a culture of wine production and consumption that is deeply rooted in tradition. Many of the world’s most beloved grape varieties originated here, as did the concept of “terroir”—soil type, elevation, slope and mesoclimate combine to produce resulting wines that convey a sense of place. Accordingly, most French wine is labeled by geographical location, rather than grape variety. So a general understaning of which grapes correspond to which regions can be helpful in navigating all of the types of French wine. Some of the greatest wine regions in the world are here, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and Champagne, but each part of the country has its own specialties and strengths.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the king and queen of Burgundy, producing elegant red and white wines with great acidity, the finest examples of which can age for decades. The same two grapes, along with Pinot Meunier, are used to make Champagne.
Of comparable renown is Bordeaux, focused on bold, structured red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc including sometimes a small amount of Petit Verdot or Malbec. The primary white varieties of Bordeaux are Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
Most of these grape varieties are planted throughout the country and beyond, extending their influence into other parts of Europe and New World appellations.
Made famous in Muscadet, a gently rolling, Atlantic-dominated countryside on the eastern edge of the Loire, Melon de Bourgogne is actually the most planted grape variety in the Loire Valley. But the best of it comes from Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, a subzone west of the city of Nantes, which is part of the larger Pays Nantais.
The name might suggest this grape is from Burgundy—and indeed its origins are Burgundian. But while history shows it is the progeny of Pinot and Gouais blanc, it was continuously outlawed from Burgundy, just like Gamay, at various times during the 16th and 17th centuries.
In the Glass
Muscadet wine is full of fresh acidity and has smoky and saline aromas with some floral character; flavors are of green pear, lemon and honeysuckle. Since the mid 1980s, winemakers have been successfully experimenting with various winemaking techniques including barrel fermentation, lees stirring and pre-fermentation skin contact to make a more complex wine.
Try Muscadet with any light and flaky fish, oysters, roasted chicken, root vegetables and fondue.
The wine itself is called Muscadet, and while suggestive of “muscat,” the wine is not related to any Muscat variety.