The dynamic university city of Nantes, on France’s Atlantic coast, is famous among wine lovers for its signature white wine, Muscadet. With its deliciously dry, mineral flavours and rasping acidity, Muscadet is a perfect partner for the delicately flavoured oysters for which the Pays Nantais is also renowned.
From the coast inland towards Anjou, Muscadet is both the Loire Valley’s westernmost and its largest wine appellation; with the Sèvre et Maine sub-zone the most important in terms of both quality and quantity, with more than 8,000 hectares of vines.
To the northeast of Nantes, lies the smaller Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire sub-zone, with steeply sloping vineyards that cling to the volcanic gneiss and schist soils at the southern flank of Brittany’s Armorican Massif. This is also where the much more confidential Coteaux d’Ancenis vineyards rise from the banks of the mighty Loire, with 150 hectares of vines surrounding the market town of Ancenis.
Leaving Muscadet to its vocation of making lemon-scented dry whites, Coteaux d’Ancenis gained appellation status in 2011 for its red, rosé and sweet white wines. Grapes are ripened on slopes that enjoy plenty of exposure to the sun’s rays, while being protected from Brittany’s strong winds to the north. These vineyards also benefit from significantly more rainfall than those in Anjou, to the east.
In Coteaux d’Ancenis, as in Beaujolais, the Gamay grape is king, making wines almost exclusively for the local market. Red wines are generally light-bodied
and thirst-quenching, with cherry and raspberry aromas, and hints of crushed pepper. Flavours are refreshingly fruity and tannins are soft, although some ambitious producers make wines that are more finely chiselled, similar in style to good Beaujolais Villages.
Coteaux d’Ancenis rosé is also squeezed from Gamay: a real gem of a dry summer pink, with beautifully ripe strawberry, peach and melon aromas; juicy, intense flavours, with fresh acidity and enough body to pair well with the locally prepared seafood platters.
Perhaps the most curious wine made in these vineyards is Coteaux d’Ancenis Malvoisie – a local synonym for the pale pink-skinned Pinot gris variety which is found in Alsace. Here it makes delicate, floral sweet whites, with apricot, melon, and even lychee flavours… it’s a delicious aperitif, or makes an ideal partner for light fruit desserts.
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Lead photo credit : Domaine Dominic Renou in the Coteaux d'Ancenis © Renou Frères et Fils
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