Nestled along the Sèvre River, in the Nantes region of the Loire Valley, sits the village of Saint-Fiacre. This is Muscadet country and home to owner/winemaker Pierre-Henri Gadais’ exciting new winery, Domaine de la Combe. Gadais is one of the talented and driven new winemakers that is working hard to bring this storied region back to its former glory.The vineyard sits on the southern slopes of a valley carved out of metamorphic rock, with pebbly soil on top of layers of schist. The excellent drainage and steep slopes ensure that, despite the periodic heavy rainfalls in the region, the vines are forced to dig deep into the rocky soil to get water. Grapes are organically and sustainably grown and the estate was certified in organic agriculture in 2021. Gadais believes in minimal intervention in the cellar, utilizing indigenous yeasts and chill stabilizing to avoid malolactic fermentation. He also believes Melon de Bourgogne – the only grape variety he grows – should spend some time sitting on its lees and eschews new oak or barriques. Wines are produced in tiny lots and are some of the most complex Muscadet from the region.
Muscadet sits in the Nantais region of the Loire Valley. Bordered by the foothills of the Mauges and Bocage Verdeen ranges, vineyards are frequently planted on the steep hillsides of the Sèvre and Maine Rivers. Sitting on the soil of the Massif Armoricain, its soils are primarily gneiss, schist and granite. There are crushed seashells and sand pockets leftover from retreating oceanic waters in many of the vineyards. Melon de Bourgogne, a white grape, is the only variety allowed in appellation-status bottlings. The wines are typically light- to medium bodied, with vibrant acidity.
At the mouth of the iconic Sèvre and Maine Rivers, in the little village of Saint-Fiacre, the vineyard is planted in gneiss, which has a similar composition to granite. From old vines, planted in 1967, sitting in the widely acclaimed lieu-dit of Pétière, the vines have an advantageous south-eastern exposure that allows them to enjoy full sun exposure during the day. This is important, as the strong Atlantic winds moderate temperatures severely; cool evenings are the norm during the growing season.
Melon de Bourgogne is a crossing between Pinot Blanc and the little known Gouais Blanc variety. It was once prevalent in the vineyards of Burgundy (hence its name), until it was ordered to be destroyed by the Burgundians in the 18th century. By then it had a toehold in the Atlantic area of the Loire Valley around Nantes, where it became the dominant grape and the base for Muscadet. Typically high in acid, fresh and mineral driven, it typically does not take to new oak very well. Complexity is gained by spending time on its lees. The best examples can gain some stone fruit notes to go along with the characteristic citrus elements.
Hand-harvested from steep organic vineyards, the wines undergo fermentation with wild yeasts and without the use of enzymes or sulfur. The fermentation takes place in underground cellars to control temperatures. After 14 months of aging on its fine lees, it is bottled. Unfined and unfiltered.
This is quite rich for a Muscadet, spending 14 months on its fine lees for added complexity. Fully phenolic ripeness. there are nuances of sweet apple mixed with bracing Meyer lemon and white grapefruit notes. There is some weight on the palate, which is rare to see from this region, but the acidity is still at play here, ensuring mouthwatering freshness. Pair this with a plate of freshly shucked oysters.