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Domaine de la Fruitiere Chardonnay 2013
Granite rock was used for centuries to build the massive fortresses that dot the landscape of Muscadet. Its density and structure were rarely breached by arrow, cannonball, or the good ‘ole medieval siege. Because of its density and the fact that it is everywhere in Muscadet, its unclear why anyone would think that this was the place to plant hectares and hectares of vines. That’s what riverbeds are for, right?
Well, the Romans might have gotten a few things wrong in France (see the 1st century BC through the 5th century AD for reference) but they did get something right: they planted a ton of grapevines on this lunar rock of a landscape. Today, this area is called Muscadet and is home to over 8,000 hectares of vines of Melon de Bourgogne.
Domaine de la Fruitière farms over 40 hectares of this and produces both Muscadet Sèvre et Maine as well as Vin de Pays from grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Regardless of the varietal, the vines are planted on rock, and in most cases, sheer cliffs of rock through which the roots have to bury for meters for any hydric source. The vines, and the wines, are fed by water that is awash in wet rock. It’s not a big shock that the wines smell and taste more like rock and minerals than fruit or flowers. Combine this with the cold Atlantic breezes and you’ve got an amazing cool climate, high cut, precise bottle of white wine.
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.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.