Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet Sur Lie Black Label 2017
Built by the noble Loré de la Ragotiere family in the fourteenth century, Chateau 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.
The Pays Nantais, Loire’s only region abutting the Atlantic coast, is solely focused on the Melon de Bourgogne grape in its handful of subzones: Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire and Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu. Muscadet wines are dry, crisp, seaside whites made from Melon de Bourgogne and are ideal for the local seafood-focused cuisine. (They are not related to Muscat.) There is a new shift in the region to make these wines with extended lees contact, creating fleshy and more aromatic versions.
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.