- Vineyard Area: 55 ha
- Soil Type: Schist, micaschist, gneiss and amphibolites
- Varieties Cultivated: Melon de Bourgogne
- Country: France
The Vinet family has some of the finest vineyards in Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, the most celebrated appellation of the Nantais. Gustave Vinet acquired the family’s first property, Domaine de la Quilla, in 1948 in the village of La Haye-Fouassière, just nine miles from the Atlantic coast. His sons, Gérard and Daniel, joined in 1981 and 1985, respectively. In 1988, the brothers were joined by Gérard’s wife, Laurence. The Vinets take their vocation seriously, farming and studying the various soil types of the appellation and then translating them into distinctive wines. Daniel retired in 2009, after which Gérard and Laurence regrouped their holdings under the name “Domaines Vinet.”
Through their holdings and acquisitions, the Vinet are able to bottle three separate cuvées from different terroirs of the appellation under different labels: Clos de la, Domaine de la and Domaine Saint Martin. All three are farmed sustainably, for which the Vinets received certification by Terra Vitis in 2010.
The fact that Gérard has recently been appointed as both the president of the Muscadet appellation as well as the entire Loire Valley shows his standing among peers and the respect with which all in the Loire hold the Vinets.
The dry, white Melon de Bourgogne grape varietal is the foundation of Muscadet. Situated to the southeast of the city of Nantes, in between the Sèvre and Maine Rivers, Melon finds its most ideal microclimate here where there is more humidity, and the grapes reach maturity slowly and are prone to late ripening. Through their holdings and acquisitions, the Vinet are able to bottle three separate cuvees from different terroirs of the appellation, which they label under Clos de la Houssaie, Domaine de la Quilla and Domaine St. Martin. All three are farmed sustainably, for which the Vinet received certification by Terra Vitis in 2010. They plow the vineyards four times a year and allow a grassy cover crop to grow between rows and use green harvests judiciously to limit the yields. Leaf thinning helps to prevent rot and encourage ripeness, and is also done thoughtfully as a good leaf surface also feeds the vines slowly and helps the grapes retain their fresh character.
In 1926, more than a decade before the creation of the appellation system in France, Clos de la Houssaie was the first to request grand cru status. Although the grand cru system never formally took hold in the Loire Valley, the Clos de la Houssaie has always been considered a benchmark in the region. For years, Gérard worked 0.7 hectares-parcel alongside the owner. When the owner fell ill, he offered it to the Vinet, although there were plenty of eager buyers. Today, they farm that same small parcel surrounded by a stone wall, which they replanted in their entirely in 1983. The Clos de la Houssaie lies along a fault of hard, metamorphic bedrock, the most prized of the appellation, and the amphibolite and serpentine content creates a spicy, floral and exotic wine.
Domaine de la Quilla vineyards were among the first of the family’s holdings, which now consist of 28 hectares around the village of La Haye-Fouassière, the birthplace of Muscadet appellation. The holdings for Domaine de la Quilla are spread among mica and schist soils. The final blend strikes a harmonious balance between the terroirs: the vivacious, crisp fruit from the sites prone to early harvests and the rounder, fuller fruit from the parcels prone to late ripening.
Located in the village of Château Thébaud, Domaine St. Martin hails from Laurence’s family and since 2000 has been farmed by the Vinet. Only three miles from Domaine de la Quilla, this rare, contiguous, eight-hectare parcel was first planted by the medieval monks, and the edifice of the domaine dates back to 1830. The Vinet farm one hectare of old vines, over 60 years in age, and seven hectares of 25- to 35-year old vines. Composed of gravel and gneiss, these ancient soils form the Armoricain massif. Its proximity to the Maine River, protection from the westerly winds and vineyard exposition creates a round and fuller-bodied Muscadet.
The grapes for all three domaines are harvested and then vinified separately at the winery at Domaine de la Quilla. Once the grapes reach the winery, they are sorted and then fermented in whole clusters and are extracted slowly and gently by pneumatic press. Primary fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks for 15 days at 18 to 20°C. The cuvees are then racked by gravity into new tanks, where they are left to settle and age on their fine lees in 5000- to 15,000-L tanks. The wines age on fine lees for eight months (two months longer than the norm to ensure better age-ability), undergoing bimonthly bâtonnages, are then bottled. The wines of Domaine de la Quilla and Domaine St. Martin are released in May, while the rare Clos de la Houssaie is left to age for three years in bottle before release.