Domaine Claude Branger Le Fils des Gras Moutons 2010
A 4rd generation domaine, Claude Branger started with his father, working “derrière le cheval” on 7 hectares. He now owns 26.5 hectares of vines and his son, Sébastien, who arrived officially at the domain in 2007, works right beside him harvesting by hand— and making ripe but very dry Muscadets.
Claude was an early member of Terra Vitis, an organization that sets guidelines for sustainable farming. Subsequently, Sébastien embarked the domain on the road to full-fledged organic farming and by 2019. They were fully certified.
The father and son team prunes its vines for low yields, harvests by hand (a rarity in this land of machine harvesting), and lets its wine rest on the lees until bottling, which is done without fining and with a light filtration—the classic sur lie technique. It’s this technique that gives good Muscadet wine its freshness and lift. There are wines of revelation made here, wines that are soft yet shockingly vigorous, imbued with scents of bread, lemon freshness, and sea salt minerality—a palette of aromas that in the better renditions follows through with flavor intensity and length. This is wine of the north Atlantic coast, the product of Brittany’s great shelf of granite. Good Muscadet is one of the best white wine values in the world.
Praised for its stately Renaissance-era chateaux, the picturesque Loire valley produces pleasant wines of just about every style. Just south of Paris, the appellation lies along the river of the same name and stretches from the Atlantic coast to the center of France.
The Loire can be divided into three main growing areas, from west to east: the Lower Loire, Middle Loire, and Upper/Central Loire. The Pay Nantais region of the Lower Loire—farthest west and closest to the Atlantic—has a maritime climate and focuses on the Melon de Bourgogne variety, which makes refreshing, crisp, aromatic whites.
The Middle Loire contains Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. In Anjou, Chenin Blanc produces some of, if not the most, outstanding dry and sweet wines with a sleek, mineral edge and characteristics of crisp apple, pear and honeysuckle. Cabernet Franc dominates red and rosé production here, supported often by Grolleau and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sparkling Crémant de Loire is a specialty of Saumur. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are common in Touraine as well, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Malbec (known locally as Côt).
The Upper Loire, with a warm, continental climate, is Sauvignon Blanc country, home to the world-renowned appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pinot Noir and Gamay produce bright, easy-drinking red wines here.
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 comes from Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, a subzone of Pays Nantais. Somm Secret—The wine called Muscadet may sound suggestive of “muscat,” but Melon de Bourgogne is not related. Its name also suggests origins in Burgundy, which it has, but was continuously outlawed there, like Gamay, during the 16th and 17th centuries.