At Jean Aubron, a domaine that resides outside of Nantes, near the Atlantic Coast, Jean-Pascal Aubron–a fourth generation vigneron–strives to make bone-dry Muscadet wines. And though the Muscadet-Sevre et Maine appellation allows for all Muscadet Sur Lie wines to contain 3 grams of residual sugar, and for all others to contain 5 grams, Jean-Pascal first and foremost pushes his fermentations to the end, to yield wines with zero residual sugar that are dry and crisp with high acidity, and suitable for aging.
Coming from a family that has worked to maintain and grow its presence in Loire, Jean-Pascal’s great grandfather worked as a vigneron in 1875, when the family’s holdings were at 11ha. Passed down to his grandfather and then to his father, the Domaine suffered a potential setback, when Jean-Pascal’s father passed away when Pascal was ten. Working with a supportive staff, Pascal’s mother was able to keep the Domaine running; in fact, she increased the family’s holdings to 30ha. Having worked the Domaine after school since he was eight-years-old, Pascal finally took over at the age of 18, without having completed any formal viticulture studies. After completing a single internship in Bordeaux, Pascal released his first solo vintage in 1983.
Because he is a traditional vigneron, little has changed at the domaine, except for improvements in the vineyard and for Pascal’s updating the equipment. In the 1980’s Jean Aubron began using a mechanical harvester, becoming the second in the region to do so. He began employing sustainable practices in the vineyard, practicing lutte raisonne and avoiding chemical usage for the past 12 years. And ten years ago, Pascal began letting cover-crop grass grow between his rows, to help fight mildew, which is a persistent issue, due to their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
Jean Aubron at our French Portfolio Tasting
Since 1983, Pascal has brought the Domaine’s holdings up to 84ha, including 35ha of the acclaimed Clos de l’Audigere, which sits on gabbro soil, a form of ancient volcanic rock that allows the vines to dig deep, picking up nutritional components along the way. By purchasing only smaller vineyards that are directly connected to his current vineyards, Pascal could keep the fruit as close to the winery as possible, to maintain its freshness, by avoiding sun contact and bruising, and to keep the grapes cool so that the wine is at its clearest after its been racked from its lees. To maintain this practice, no vineyard is located more than 15km from the winery.
Harvesting takes place between 4-11:00 AM, to ensure that the grapes are 10 degrees Celsius after pressing. After a cold setting in stainless steel tanks, the wine is racked off its gross lees and into glass-lined subterranean tanks. One consequence of bringing the must to 10 degrees C is that the native yeasts die off, so Pascal must inoculate the first few batches, to maintain the wine’s aromatics; while the remaining tanks ferment with native yeasts, because at this point, there is enough present in the air to start the additional fermentations.
After a three week fermentation, the fine lees settle. At this point, there is no racking; the wine is not touched until it’s bottled. There’s no batonnage, because Pascal doesn’t feel the need to feed the wine. And because of the remaining fine lees, the wine is sufficiently protected; there is little need to add sulfur. The first bottling, takes place in May or June, after the wine has been on its fine lees for 6-8 months. The second bottling takes place in November, after harvest. Because each tank is bottled based upon its needs, there is not much of a difference, if any, between the first and second bottlings.
Currently, Pascal is experimenting organic farming, by working with a 5ha parcel, from the 35ha of Grand Fief de l’Audigere. Started three years ago, it’s a project that’s still in its infancy because two years ago, there was a mildew problem, created by the vineyard’s proximity to the Atlantic, and so Pascal chose to treat and save the crop, rather than lose his 5ha of fruit.
Jean Aubron Muscadet “Grand Fief de l’Audigere” 2010– Earthy notes of rock, clean on the palate with fresh lime fruit.
Jean Aubron Muscadet “Grand Fief de l’Audigere” 2005– Herbaceous minerality that’s stone creamy on the palate with light lime pith.
Jean Aubron Muscadet “Grand Fief de l’Audigere” 2003– Floral infused crushed rocks and lean with chalky viscosity and a touch of anise.
Jean Aubron Muscadet “Grand Fief de l’Audigere” 2001– Fresh with lovely oxidized orange rind and pith with a hint of clove.