Who: Vincent Caillé
What: Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Gorges and Vin de France
When: Since 19th century
It’s taken the wine world a long time to embrace the less famous regions, the regions with less famous grapes and those beyond the mainstream of text books, critics and press. Muscadet is one such region that was disparaged until recently and now appears to be surfacing in the minds of real wine lovers all over the world. We were just as guilty for having overlooked the treasures to be found there. It’s like the way in which Beaujolais has been disparaged as an appendage to Burgundy with a less noble grape which image has hopefully been fully dispelled by two decades of vintage after vintage of great wines produced by committed and smart growers working with a grape perfectly capable of matching most of the finest wines from the Cote d’Or. So now the finer wines of Muscadet and its principal grape Melon de Bourgogne (the irony of being “de Bourgogne”!) are being held in as high esteem as Chenins from Anjou or Saumur or the Touraine.
There are a handful of producers who are reaching for the stars (pun intended since they’re all biodynamic). Domaine Le Fay d’Homme is one of the prime movers in the renaissance of Muscadet in the twenty first century. Vincent Caillé who is the current custodian of this small family estate may not be a young man anymore, he took over the estate in 1986, but is definitely of the new generation and an inspiring leader to many younger vignerons.
The 25 hectare estate is situated near Monnières around 5 km south east of Nantes some 20km inland from the Atlantic ocean and as far north-west as grapes grow in France at the mouth of the Loire river. The estate is at the heart of what is probably the best growing district of the Muscadet between the Maine and Sevre rivers and which lies between the small towns of Clisson and Vallet. The estate has been in the Caillé family for 5 generations and Vincent’s daughters now work with him.
They farm three different and equally excellent terroirs of granite soils: gneiss, gabbro and orthogneiss. They have been organic since 1996 and practise organic not just for the label but in a way that’s most sustainable for the environment and for the quality of the wines (in fact, they didn’t bother with the Certificate until 2012 when they also got their biodynamic Demeter Certificate). Flowers and grasses grow among the vines and contribute to living matter, sheep graze the vineyard in rotation through the winter. Practising organic and keeping treatments to a minimum in this humid climate with a grape prone to mildew isn’t undertaken lightly and Vincent has taken big hits over the years in terms of yield but the difference between wines from living soils and those from chemically treated soils is vast.
In the cellar, Vincent has always practised traditional winemaking, using mainly concrete tanks and long ageing on lees with no entrants except for a modest dose of sulfites to keep the wine stable on its many journeys to export markets.
The wines are quiet and subtle but deep and hugely rewarding for those with patience and curiosity. We don’t know any like them in the Muscadet, which is not to say there aren’t others just as fine as those of Vincent. His wines might be described as a vigneron’s wine and we’ve heard praise for his wines from the Roussillon to the Beaujolais from highly regarded producers.
There’s not a weak wine in the range but it takes time to get to know them all. We first tasted these wines at the Biotop salon in Montpellier in 2022 and were instantly smitten only to be told later by friends like Jean-Philippe Padié to go taste with Vincent. Now we know the wines, suddenly we see them everywhere.