As one of our domains of the week, we’re proud to introduce Domaine Luneau-Papin, a Muscadet institution for several decades now. Pierre-Marie has gradually taken up the family domain with his wife, Marie, and we were lucky enough to interview them.
Whilst she has been really busy in the vineyard as of late, Marie Luneau-Papin didn’t hesitate to offer u some of her precious time for an interview! We talked about her career as a wine maker, the philosophy of the domain and even some ideas for food pairings, all recounted with happiness.
It was never predestined that Marie should become a wine maker. Having arrived at the domain almost by accident, she was employed by Pierre and Monique (Pierre-Marie’s parents) before falling for the charms of both the domain and of Pierre-Marie, who she would marry a few years later!
“The transition with my in-laws was taken step by step”
The young couple immediately saw potential in organic agriculture as a wonderful way of improving the quality of their wines. They discussed this with Pierre-Marie’s parents, who were managing the domain at the time, and they wanted to see some results before taking the plunge to full organic conversion. In 2008, they got straight to it, trying these methods out on a little parcel tucked away. And this with great success, as is evidenced by the Gula Ana cuvée!
“The transition with my in-laws was taken step by step”, Marie explains. They would come and have a peek at the work in the winery, seeing immediately that their grapes were in safe hands. Over 10 years, they parted with 15 hectares, doubling the number of employees. With 9 people working full time across 39 hectares, they succeeded in achieving their initial goal: to convert the domain entirely to biodynamics. “A venture unimaginable without our team”, she expresses proudly.
Bravery and humour abound for this Muscadet wine maker
Working in the vines of Muscadet takes grit and determination. “Since 2016, we’ve lost 80% of our production three times because of devastating frost. The most difficult thing for the team is regaining that motivation to work for the days that follow.” Fortunately, this year they’ve been saved that pain, unlike her friends with wine shops and restaurants who have taken the full hit of the covid crisis. Well placed to comfort them, Marie knows it’s possible to pick up and carry on in the face of disaster, especially with a bit of good humour.
Bravery is certainly necessary for the wine makers of the pays Nantais, but even more invaluable is a good spirit in order to break through the barriers of stereotype. Marie is used to this, explaining how “those who have a negative view of Muscadet tend to then become its best ambassadors once they realise they actually quite like it”. She even sees a way of turning this to her advantage, seeing the incredible chance they have as a domain known across France and beyond.
“Experimenting” is in the domain’s DNA
Sometimes Marie would like to be following a career such as that of a chef, a job allowing you to try out new recipes every day. In her field, the risks can be huge: “in the vineyards and the winery, if you experiment with something and it doesn’t work out, you have to wait until next year”.
This doesn’t stop them trying though. Marie’s parents-in-law began to produce single parcel cuvées around 40 years ago as an experiment. They were curious to see which vinification method would go best with each terroir. Early to this particular way of doing things, they were then followed by other wine makers who saw the potential in it. And the couple have clearly made sure to continue this desire to express the terroir in each cuvée.
Whilst they have carried on making the domain’s emblematic cuvées such as the L d’Or, they’ve never stopped innovating. The Pueri Soli cuvée is the perfect example of this, produced in only the 2005 and 2009 cuvées.
What do the guides say?
La Revue du vin de France (2*/3)
“We connect with yet more momentum and tension every time we taste the cuvées from this domain. The sunny richness of the 2018 vintage is well contained in these sound white wines. Les Pierres Blanches is magnificently crystalline whilst the Vera Cruz leans on an enticing, salty energy. Five to six years of ageing will do them a world of good. We predict a cellaring potential of over 15 years for the L d’Or cuvée, a rich white held by a saline purity. Gula Ana will be marvellous in time when it reveals its rich nuances: it recalls a lovely Loire Chenin. The 2005 Excelsior ages superbly and will make a perfect table companion in 15 years or so.”
“Proof that fine Musadets evolve beautifully in time is demonstrated by this 40 hectare family domain. Here, wine is a real family affair: Pierre, his wife Monique, and their son Pierre-Marie make cuvées with a pure and prices style, usually created from single parcel selection, old vines and organic fertiliser. The care taken in the vineyard and in the winery is irreproachable. The L d’Or cuvée, produced in granite terroirs, offers a saline dimension which, when aged, has a similar underscore to the fine Rieslings of Alsace. It has certain ageing potential. The Excelsior cuvée, from schist soils, brings out a wonderful minerality. It is clear that this domain is consistent throughout its vintages. This is one of the most refined ranges of Muscadet.”