Located at the Atlantic in the Loire Valley, Pays Nantes is a captivating region renowned for its stunning landscapes, and exceptional Muscadet wines. As one of the seven sub-regions of the Loire Valley, Pays Nantes has carved a niche for itself with its unique terroir, long history of winemaking, and incredible gastronomic scene.
As we 'taste' the Loire, it only makes sense to start with the most westward region, Pays Nantes.
Pays Nantes Terroir and Grape Varieties:
Pays Nantes boasts a terroir defined by the Atlantic Ocean's influence, contributing to a maritime climate that shapes the character of its wines. Here, you have 10,300 ha under the Atlantic influence, with soils and subsoils made of igneous and metamorphic rock from the Massif Armoricain. Gneiss, mica schists, greenstone and granite soils are all common here, thanks to the Massif Armoricain which gives grape growers a resulting mixed bag of exciting terroirs to work with.
The region primarily focuses on white grape varieties, with Melon de Bourgogne reigning supreme. Melon de Bourgogne, a grape that flourished in Burgundy until its destruction was ordered in the early 1700s, made its way to Nantes after a harsh winter and devastated vineyards were in need of a new variety; here enters the Melon grape. Melon de Bourgogne's new home of Pays Nantes is where it thrives today in the oceanic climate and mineral-rich soils.
The unique terroir of Pays Nantes is especially evident in the Muscadet wines produced here. Muscadet, made exclusively from Melon de Bourgogne, is renowned for its crisp acidity, minerality, and a distinct saline quality, reflecting the oceanic influence on the vines.
FUN FACT: DNA analysis has revealed Melon de Bourgogne to be a cross between Pinot blanc and Gouais blanc.
Within Pays Nantes, three key appellations contribute to the region's international recognition:
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine:
The most well-known appellation in Pays Nantes, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine produces wines characterized by their vibrant acidity and pronounced minerality. These wines often undergo sur lie aging, enhancing their texture and complexity.
Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire:
This appellation encompasses a broader area, allowing various expressions within the Muscadet style. The wines here are known for their balance, with some showcasing a touch of fruitiness alongside the classic acidity and minerality.
Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu:
Located near Lake Grandlieu, this appellation benefits from the moderating influence of the lake on the climate. The wines produced here are often rounder and more approachable, yet still retaining the freshness characteristic of Muscadet.
The biggest takeaway about Pays Nantes is the influence the Atlantic Ocean and the Massif Armoricain have on the climate and terroir of the area, and how that differs from the neighbouring regions in the Loire. The other takeaway is that if it weren't for Pays Nantes, Melon de Bourgogne could have been extinct or produced in very low quantities, making finding a bottle of Muscadet a problematic or rare feat here in North America. Think about that!
If enjoying a bottle of Muscadet from Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, try pairing it with oysters. The crisp and refreshing qualities of Pays Nantes wines make them a guaranteed go-to for seafood.
With that, we'll close with a quote from Master of Wine Richard Hemming, "Every day should be a Muscadet".