When Marc started Pépière with seven hectares, the terroir was unified and it made sense to produce only one wine. But as the estate grew and the terroirs diversified, he began doing “what has always been done in the rest of France”: he was already vinifying each parcel separately, so it was intuitive to start bottling single vineyard cuvées: Clos des Briords in 1988, Cormermais in 1992… While this may seem totally normal to the average French oenophile, the Muscadet works a bit differently.
Despite having some of the most varied terroirs and micro-climates in all of France, it remains a region of scale and bulk dominated by large négociant operations. One could optimistically opine that Muscadet’s strength lies in blending all of its terroir into a more complex whole, but the blunt and far less charming truth is that most vignerons get paid (poorly) for grapes by the kilo irrespective of where they are grown because négociants don’t care. Even for independent estates, it is quite common to only produce a single cuvée despite the obvious variations of soil and micro-climates within their plots.
Over the last decade, there has been a push by the appellation to create cru designations in hopes of bolstering Muscadet’s reputation. Pépière was way ahead of the curve here, with half of the estate’s 42 hectares falling within the crus of Clisson, Monnières-Saint Fiacre, Château-Thébaud and Gorges. At the time this was simply Marc, Rémi and Gwen picking the most interesting vineyards. And to give perspective, the average independent Muscadet estate only has holdings of 15 to 20% within the crus.
While 50% of the estate’s vineyards fall within the cru limits, cru wines only represent an average of 15% of Pépière’s annual production. In some vintages they will produce less or no cru wines at all if the quality is not there. Aging on the lees are always longer than the mandated 17 months, lasting a minimum of two years. But Marc, Rémi and Gwen have not been afraid to push it to 36 or even 48 months in some cases. All grapes within the crus not deemed up to snuff (again, around 85%) go into the the entry level La Pépie cuvée.
- Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie “Merci”
- Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie “Clos des Briords”
- Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Clisson”
- Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Monnières-Saint-Fiacre”
- Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Château Thébaud”