Just south of Muscadet, near the mouth of the Loire River, is a tiny, nascent growing region that few people, other than then the geekiest of Loire fans, have ever heard of: Fief Vendéens. Now you can count yourself among the fortunate few. This VDQS (Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure, testing ground for new appellations) includes small villages like Bretignolles-sur-Mer, Talmont-Saint-Hilaire, and Brem-sur-Mer, where today's Wine of the Week, made by Domaine Saint Nicolas, comes from.
Domaine Saint Nicolas's estate, which was has been cultivated organically since 1995, is spread out over 32 hectares on the Ile d'Olonne, edging up against that region's famed salt marshes. Its soils are clay and schist, and its vineyard composition is reflective of the region: Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Grolleau Gris (also spelled Groslot). Owner Thierry Michon now farms his grapes biodynamically, harvests by hand, and vinifies his wines to allow the nearby sea, woodland and salt marshes to speak through his wines. While the exact cépage for his 2009 Domaine Saint Nicolas "Les Clous" Fief Vendéens ($16.99) seems to be up for debate, the bottle, our buyer, the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate can all agree that it's predominantly Chenin Blanc. Whether the rest is 10% Grolleau, 15% Chardonnay and 5% Grolleau, or some other combination doesn't really matter though, the point is the wine is 100% delicious, and on that everyone can seem to agree.
The wine is a bit geeky, and a touch oxidative, but not so much so that it would be off-putting to those new to the style. The nose is a seductive blend of baked Comice pear and petrol. Tangy and filigreed on the palate, it tastes like a mouthful of Murcot tangerine, its blossoms, quince, animal crackers and pineapple eaten out in the fresh sea air. Its acidic lift and stony finish will help it at the table, where it's a natural pairing with langoustines, oysters and other sea creatures. I think it also has enough acidity to stand up to a summery gazpacho and enough texture to meld with grilled pork or chicken.