Monday, June 30, 2008

A New Addition to the Portfolio

I've been searching for a while for a high-quality, low-cost Muscadet that I could put my name on. Finding a good wine, from any region, that I can represent is tougher than you think. There's a lot of searching, negotiating, slurping and spitting before finding one that meets my stringent criteria (price is of course a big factor, but I also want it to be well-made). And when I do find one, there is of course the discussions as to exclusivity, are they already imported, etc... Heck, I haven't added a wine to the portfolio in months, sometimes I think I might be too stringent.

So I was really excited when I tasted a small producer's bottle of Muscadet the other day. We left this sample open for hours and it kept getting better and better, truly shocking our oh-so-sophisticated (yeah, right) and jaded palates. I quickly got on the phone, and after chatting with the owner/winemaker/main grape picker, had a deal for exclusive distribution rights in the US.

Now let me introduce you to Jean Aubron, from the small town of Vallet:

His family has been making wines there since 1843, tending 11 hectares of enclosed vineyards, one of which is called Le Grand Fief de l’Audigère. His vineyards sit on calcium-rich deposits, which really make the grapes work for a living and this in turn allows the wine to really shine brightly. He isn't biodynamic, he's not fully organic, but instead opts to use the best practices of both and does what's called in French lutte raisonnée. This translates roughly to sustainable agriculture. To say I'm psyched to have found Jean is an understatement, he's doing some great, passionate work and it's really showing in his wine.

The village of Vallet is just southeast of the city of Nantes, on the Atlantic Coast. Jean's neighbors include some of the most beautiful chateaux in the Loire Valley, though of course this has no bearing on the quality of the wine. It does make for some pretty pictures, no?

The wines are made in stainless steel tanks, as can be seen in the picture below.

Then they age on their lees (the dead yeast cells - not as disgusting as it sounds) for 6-10 months depending on the vintage's requirements. What does this do? It adds a certain richness to the wine's mouthfeel, making it seem "rounder" in the mouth. Without this extra time, the wine would be mouth-puckeringly, almost painfully, lean and steely. As it is, the acidity in the wine seemed to strip the enamel off my teeth, but then again I'm an acid-freak and love that.

What to eat with wines like this? The classic accompaniement is fruits de mer, several ice platters full of seafood and shellfish, stacked on metal legs. To put it mildly, this is an awesome match.

And what does it taste like? The Grand Fief de l’Audigère Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie is a lovely, flowery and briney wine, a true showcase of its terroir.
Lemon, lime, white flowers and salty notes of the sea vie for your attention, with a rich yet minerally mouthfeel and striking acidity that balances everything on the palate. This bottle should retail in the $11-14 range, depending on my customers' mark-ups of course.

As you can see, the label is modern, clean yet classic, something I always appreciate when seeking new wines for my book. It should be available in the upcoming months, assuming I can get someone to grab it.

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