Two from Domaine de la Pepiere

Hello friends. The Pays Nantais is one of the special places in the wine world. While some places are special because of complexity, others are special for freshness, youthful vigor, transparency. The Pays Nantais, where the Loire River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, is the latter. This is the home of Muscadet, among the world’s great value wines (on this map, we’re in Region 3).

Domaine de la Pepiere is a benchmark estate for Muscadet. Marc Olivier began the estate in 1984, with a core of old-vines (40 to 80 years) that had been passed down in his family. While trends in Muscadet have been towards mechanized production and fast release, Marc stubbornly takes it slow.

He hand harvests and uses natural yeasts, and while many Muscadet producers bottle the previous year’s vintage in January, Marc generally bottles in May. That’s why his 2011s have just hit the Seattle market now. His vines are mostly on shallow soil with hard granite very close to the surface, exactly the kind of terroir that makes Muscadet shine.

Marc also really looks the part. That’s what I was thinking when I met him during his visit to Seattle in the spring. Here’s a picture of Marc (he’s on the left, with his partner in Domaine de la Pepiere, Remi Branger). An artist sketching out a prototype for a French winemaker couldn’t draw a better version.

2011 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie

This region produces almost entirely white wines from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. As usual in Europe, the wines in the region grew up to suit the foods in the region. In this case, we’re on the edge of the sea, so we’re drowning in shellfish and bivalves. Muscadet with raw oysters is one of *the* classic food/wine pairings (it’s taught on day one of Sommelier 101). The grape’s inherent brininess and subtlety and mineral tang perfectly complement a well-shucked oyster.

And that’s exactly what we have here (the wine, not the oyster): a vibrant, spritzy, minerally, sea-salt-soaked delight of a wine. This is honest Muscadet, transparently expressive of the place where it was grown. It should warrant high consideration for the Thanksgiving table this year. Because of its shimmering acidity, Muscadet is terrifically versatile with food, perfect for the Thanksgiving smorgasborg.

2011 Domaine de la Pepiere Cot “La Pepie” (Malbec)

As I mentioned, Muscadet produces almost entirely white wines, and in fact, if you want to use “Muscadet” on the label, it can only have Melon de Bourgogne. But Marc has a puckish quality, and he was determined to bend the rules. He has tried two side projects over the years: one to make moelleux (sweet) wines. That one failed. And another to make red wines. That one has been a happy, surprising success.

Because of the rules around labeling, this gets the more generic “Vin de Pays du Val de Loire” designation, but it also frees Marc up to be more playful with the label. It gets both the name of the varietal (Cot, a synonym for Malbec) and a picture of a dazed chicken (perhaps about to go into the pot with a bottle of Cot for a Coq au Vin?).

So yes, we’re looking at 100% Malbec from the Pays Nantais. A bit odd? Yes. Undeniably delicious? Also yes.

Aromatics are a pure laser bean of crunchy berry fruit and berry skin. This still has the Muscadet signature, which is to say: it’s a vin de soif; thirst-quenching, light-bodied, oh so easy to glug. The palate is unmistakably old-world, with measured austerity and lovely rockiness competing with the grapey, sappy fruit. Imagine licking a berry-soaked boulder and you’ll be getting close to the tasting experience.

First come first served up to 12 bottles of each, and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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