Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Cru Vallet
November 12th 2017 saw the official launch of Cru Vallet, the latest Muscadet Cru to seek recognition by the INAO and the French Government. Cru Vallet would be the 10th Muscadet Cru Communaux assuming that all goes to plan and that it gains recognition. It is also the potentially largest in terms of area planted suitable for cru status with the largest number of vignerons – 25 from 22 domaines.
Vallet producers started the process towards cru status in 2011 and they have now already carried out various studies and held tastings in order to determine what are the characteristics of a Cru Vallet.
Of the two types of soil/rock found in ‘Cru Vallet’ they have opted for the ‘gabbro’ to represent the cru in preference to mica schist. Gabbro is a black igneous rock with a similar composition to basalt.
In the Muscadet Cru Communaux it is only a small proportion of the vineyards within a commune that merit cru status. This unlike, say, Vacqueyras in the Rhône, where the appellation was promoted from Côtes du Rhône Villages to Vacqueyras.
A Muscadet Cru Communaux spends longer on its lees than a normal Muscadet. Of the three crus that were ratified in 2011 the shortest minimum time is 17 months (Le Pallet), while is 24 months for Clisson and Gorges. Due to a bizarre quirk of French wine law these longer aged Muscadet are not entitled to mention sur lie on their labels. This is because the current legislation insists that a Muscadet sur lie must be bottled between March 1st following the vintage and the 30th November of the same year.
This situation is, of course, nonsensical given that the crus communaux are the supreme expression of sur lie. The answer would be to keep the minimum time for a sur lie at 1st March and abolish the 30th November deadline.
The growers of Cru Vallet
Muscadet Crus Communaux – the current state of play
Although there are currently ten potential crus communaux, there are still just three that are officially recognised. These are Clisson, Gorges and Le Pallet, which were recognised back in 2011.
There are another four – Goulaine, Monnières-Saint Fiacre, Mouzillon-Tillières and Château-Thébaud that are expected to be formally recognised very soon. It had been anticipated that these four crus would have already been formally approved. François Robin of Vin de Nantes says: “the delay has been largely for administrative reasons. I expect they will be formally ratified in 2018.”
Ratification may also have been delayed by the négotiants’ absurd demand to be allowed to use Colombard and other varieties in Muscadet. Fortunately this aberration appears to have been still-born.
Then there are another three – Champtoceaux (Coteaux de la Loire – only one of the 10 outside Sèvre-et-Maine), La Haye Fouassière and Vallet. These still have a way to go before being recognised by the INAO, although Robin thinks that the process should be shorter than previously due to learning from the processes that were necessary for the earlier crus and that they have already started making their case. However, it is unlikely that these three will be recognised before 2020/21.
In 2016 the indicative area for all of the 10 ‘cru communaux’ was 152 hectares:
Champtoceaux : 6ha
Château Thébaud : 11ha
Clisson : 20ha
Gorges : 12ha
Goulaine : 6ha
La Haye Fouassière : 12 ha
Le Pallet : 66ha
Monnières Saint Fiacre : 13ha
Mouzillon Tillières : 9ha
Vallet : 9ha
Le Pallet, which is essentially the cave coop, is to date much the most important in terms of vineyards set aside to make cru communaux.
It seems very likely that as more crus are ratified that production will increase, although the crus communaux will surely remain a niche product but one that greatly enhances Muscadet’s reputation. They are remarkable wines at an extraordinarily reasonable price.