Domaine de la Fruitiere Muscadet Gneiss de Bel Abord 2018
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.
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.