Domaine Claude Branger Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie Les Fils des Gras Moutons 2021
This is the domaine’s excellent base wine coming from 26 acres of vines in earlier maturing plots in their home commune of Maisdon-sur-Sèvre (while named the son of the wine below, this does not come from the same vineyard—it is simply made in the same spirit). The soil runs from 10 to 16 inches deep and the granite bedrock is metamorphic gneiss full of mica and quartz. These vines average 40 years of age and their yield averages 50 hectoliters per hectare (the legal maximum permitted in the AC, and thus the norm, is 55 hl/ha). The wine rests on its lees for six to seven months before bottling, and a productive year will see 5,800 cases made.
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.
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 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.