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‘Exceptional’ vintage prompts UK distributors to turn to Muscadet

Published:  12 March, 2019

An ‘exceptional’ 2018 vintage coupled with a consistent rise of quality of wine production from a new generation of vintners in the Pays Nantais has prompted UK distributors to turn to Muscadet.

Nick Groszek, operations manager at Spanish specialist distributor, Moreno Wines, revealed the company would be making a run Muscadet this year as part of a major expansion of its portfolio into the Loire.

“We’re tapping into ‘the new old world’ where a new generation of vintners are making low intervention idiosyncratic wines,” Groszek said. “The resurgence of Muscadet suits the UK market, where fresh, relatively low-alcohol white wines are doing well,” he added.

In France, the 2018 Muscadet vintage has been widely compared to the historic 1947 and 1990 vintages with clean 2018 wines showing fruit-rich roundness and aromatic appeal, while maintaining freshness and minerality.

The Federation of Nantes Wines (FVN) told Harpers that volumes from the 2018 Muscadet vintage had soared by more than a third to 420,000 hectolitres compared to 2017, showing that the Pays Nantais had recovered from two consecutive years of low production.

It said higher volumes meant producers could return to markets and keep stock back.

 “The quantity of the 2018 vintage means we will be able to meet demand for wines to the UK and internationally including Japan; we have already had massive demand for exports to Sweden for the 2018 vintage,” said Chris Hardy, owner of Loire specialist distributor Charles Sydney Wines.

“Muscadet is providing great value in comparison with Sancerre prices and rather dull Pinot Grigio,” he said, adding: “We are now seeing steady growth across the trade from leading UK supermarkets to wholesale and independent wine merchants.”

The FVN said the 2018 vintage was not only exceptional in terms of quantity and quality, but due to wines showing fruit-rich roundness and aromatic appeal, made from healthy grapes harvested during optimal weather following a dry, hot summer.

Hardy said the growing season had seen cooler nights in comparison with the heat wave of 2003. Although alcohol levels have been slowly rising, notably over the last two years  - with some reaching 13% abc - several Muscadet producers said wines from the 2018 vintage, were, balanced with good levels of acidity.

“It’s a very promising vintage, with wines showing fantastic concentration,” said Alain Couillaud wine producer at Le Haut-Planty, whose low-intervention wines are exported to New York and Europe.

As well as clean young, unoaked wines, a new generation of Muscadet vintners are increasingly producing organic, terroir-driven wines, focused on texture, acidity and minerality made and aged in diverse methods.

“We have started to keep some library stock [from previous vintages], because we know that top Muscadet can age brilliantly,” said Doug Wregg, owner of Les Caves de Pyrene, which now stocks 13 cuvées from four leading producers, including the wines of Jo Landron.

The FVN meanwhile said major changes to rules governing Muscadet appellations, including ‘Cru” status for four new villages in the Pays Nantais would finally come into force by the 2019 vintage.