The Loire Valley is known for its historic towns, châteaux, and wines. When the French kings began constructing their châteaux in the valley, the nobility, not wanting to be distanced from the seat of power, constructed their own châteaux here as well. The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, range from fortifications built in the 10th century to those built 500 years later. The presence of royalty and nobility in this lush, beautiful valley began attracting landscape designers, and of course, winemakers. The Loire Valley is referred to as the Garden of France due to its fruit orchards, vegetable fields, and its abundance of vineyards. The winegrowers of the Loire Valley have achieved great expertise, offering all types of wines—white, red, rosé, and sparkling—in all styles and at all prices.
Interview with Julia Markina, Head of Exports Château Guipière Vallet, France
Where is Château Guipière located?
Château Guipière is located in Vallet, the capital of Muscadet in the Loire Valley. This region is notable for its historic towns and the abundance of châteaux (royal castles), which tell us the story of France. Moreover, Loire Valley is France’s largest wine growing region. It stretches from Atlantic coast, starting near Nantes to Orleans with the longest wine route of France. Our domaine is situated at the mouth of the Loire River, near the Atlantic Ocean, so we are actually in the extreme west of the European continent! If we look really intensely at the Atlantic Ocean, we can see the Statue of liberty!
When was Château Guipière founded?
Château Guipière is a place with a huge history since 15th century. La Guipière was once called La Guipitière. This place was attached to the seigneury of Le Pallet (15th century). With the town of Clisson, Le Pallet was one of the most influential seigneury in the area. Château Guipière was built at the end of the 18th century, and then destroyed about fifty years later in 1850. The owner of the castle had been very unlucky in her love life, that’s why she decided to ward off the spell. This Madame was apparently also a wine lover; we discovered the first traces of vines planted here in 1842.
Who is the owner of Château Guipière, and what is his background in the wine business?
Since the end of 2015, Château Guipière has been the property of Philippe Nevoux. Having originated from the region, he dreamed about having a winery since his childhood. Now his dream has come true, and Philippe is creating a new image for Muscadet wine, which had been considerably underestimated for a long time. Thanks to a new generation of winegrowers it ‘s finding a new popularity.
At Château Guipière you are known for your exceptional Muscadets, produced with the grape variety Melon de Bourgogne. Is that the grape variety most planted in the area?
Yes, that’s right! This is the kingdom of Muscadet with its unique varietal: Melon de Bourgogne. At Château Guipière, we have 28 hectares (ha). (1 hectare = 2.471 acres.) 21 hectares of them are dedicated to the plantation of this grape variety.
Why is that grape successful in the region?
The Muscadet region is located in the northern part of French wine production region, and we know that Melon de Bourgogne was probably introduced here from Burgundy with other white and red grape varieties. After several freezing winters most of the grape varieties were destroyed, but the Melon de Bourgogne survived! Even the very famous French Sun King, Louis XIV, gave the order to plant this grape variety In the Loire Valley to make white wine for his parties in the different castles when he was visiting from Versailles.
Until now, this grape variety has been very persistent against freezing in April, even though we had several freezes in the last five years. Happily, this spring and summer were very warm, so the vintage of 2020 is very good!
Tell us about the terroir of Château Guipière, and why it is good for growing grapes?
The subsoil of our Muscadet region consists of eruptive rocks (gabbro-granite) and metamorphic rocks (gneiss-schist-amphibolite). Thus, wineries are based on parent rocks of mica schist or amphibolite in a disintegrating phase. I know I know that it’s very complex to understand!
To be clear, Château Guipière is located on land that is wholesome, well filtered and therefore ideally suited to the planting of vines.
How does the location of your winery near the Atlantic Ocean affect the wines?
Having our vineyards close to the Atlantic Ocean gives all of our wines an interesting mutual characteristic: remarkably a little salty, and a little bit iodine, with a long-lasting finish. Our wines are characterized by great finesse, a beautiful minerality, and a good evolution.
Does the estate follow biodiversity practices?
Yes, since 2017 Château Guipière is labeled with High Environmental Value 3 Certificate. It means that we preserve biodiversity, reduce the phytosanitary input and manage water resources in order to ensure the high quality of our wines with respect to nature. We want to move to 100% organic production practice in several years.
Besides the beautiful Muscadets you’re known for, what other varietals do you produce?
We plant several grape varietals at Château Guipière: Chardonnay to make our sparkling wines, Gamay and Cabernet Franc (famous red grape varietals from the Loire Valley) to make our Rosé. This year we start making a red wine from Pinot Noir grape varietal! It will be a real surprise for our customers!
In 2017 we decided to make a special cuvée only for our domaine clients – 100% Gewürztraminer. It’s a confidential cuvee, “Miss Guipière,” which is cultivated in the old walls of the castle gardens. Gewürztraminer is not so typical for Loire Valley, but we enjoy producing it at Château Guipière!
What are your best selling wines?
We produce a large range of wines and we have Muscadet Wines of different styles (traditional vinification, French oak barrels vinification or even burgundy-style vinification). But our two best sellers are the following:
La Grange Old Vines 2018 It’s our best seller in different countries. We make this wine with traditional vinification and maturing on lees for one year in order to get an elegant, beautifully balanced Muscadet. This wine is so good and easy to drink that it was selected by American Airlines for its Business Class flights in 2020. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of flights this year, but if you take a plane with AA, don’t forget to order a glass of white wine to discover this hidden beauty.
La Tour Old Vines 2018 with its maturing on lees for 10 months is a well structured and rich Muscadet. This wine is made for special occasions and it is very appreciated by wine lovers!
Many of your vines are old vines, up to 55 years old for the Cru Goulaine, your premier wine (produced in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Appellation Communale Goulaine). Is it your best wine because it is produced from old vines?
Cru Goulaine 2016 a rare pearl in the Muscadet region because the area of planting for this wine has a very high-quality terroir. The planting zone is very limited and has a lot of rules to observe to have the ability to produce this wine.
Entirely manually harvested with maturing on lees for two years permits us to obtain a full-bodied, intense Muscadet with extended ageing potential. You can keep this white wine in your cellar for 15 years! But according to our clients, this wine is too good that they can’t wait that long to drink it!
Your historic estate is steeped in history with a wonderful character. What is the style of the buildings, and who designed them?
We are so lucky to work at this wonderful historical place. The buildings of Château Guipière such as the domaine building itself, the barn, the orange grove and the tower reflects the influences of Tuscan architecture of the time of their building. We don’t know the architect’s name, but many structures built in this style, including “La Garenne Lemot,” be can found around the Clisson area.
We were especially impressed by the your beautiful Muscadet collection wine bottle labels featuring your historic buildings, La Tour – The Tower; L’Orangeraie, – the Orange Grove; Le Clos des Morinieres – denoting a “small walled vineyard” and La Grange – The Barn. Why did you decide to put these historic buildings on your labels, and who designed the labels?
We are proud of our historical place; we wanted to highlight the importance of history in the winemaking. You may know that French people are very traditional and proud of France, especially when we speak about our cuisine traditions or winemaking!
We have a friend who designs all our labels and brochures, Florence Charrier from “La Valise Rouge.” She likes to spend time near our lake looking at the Tower with a glass of wine and then she draws for us!
In the region of Nantes, many of the wine vats are buried underground. Why is this?
It’s a tradition! We don’t know exactly where it came from, but we actually like this tradition. First of all, we are sure that the temperature is regular which is very important for the fermentation. And secondly, it helps us to use the place for other activities! It’s a compact arrangement, and it’s great!
Your Pinot Gris is designated as IGP, a European term meaning “Indication Geographique Protégée,” introduced in 2009 to be used alongside or instead of Vin de Pays on labels. Pays IGP is also divided into regions, the Loire being one of them. Why did you decide to produce Pinot Gris?
Pinot Gris is a very quantitative varietal. We planted it in 2017 and we harvested it in 2018! It’s a nice, easy to drink wine which we drink as an aperitif at the terrace. You may know that French cafés with terraces is an important part of French lifestyle; we need a lot of Pinot Gris!
Do you think that the Pays IGP designation undoubtedly offers the best value wines in France, because many originate from lesser-known up-and-coming terroirs?
Yes, we think so. Some people think that only the AOP designation is the label of quality. AOP is a label of quality, that’s true, but the IGP wines are also very qualitative and permit us to use the varietals originated from lesser known terroirs and tiny areas.
Your wines have won several awards and accolades, such as Wine Enthusiast awards and the Challenge International du Vin, Medaille Or, and the Lyon Or Gold and many others for your Pinot Gris. Any other important acknowledgments for any of your other wines?
All our wines have medals at the national and international levels. Especially we are proud that our La Grange Old Vines has a gold medal every year at the national or regional level. For example, the vintage 2019 got a gold medal at the most prestigious wine competition in France – Le Concours Général Agricole in 2020. Our team is so proud!
One more example for the Cru Goulaine 2019: we got 92 points in the Wine Enthusiast review. Being highly appreciated by such a well-known review is our pleasure and a great award for our everyday work, especially for our Maître de Chais – Stéphane Gouraud.
You have three sparkling wines, Baron de La Guipière, a brut; Duk (The Duke), a demi-sec; and Duchesse, a brut rosé de saignée, which is a bit more medium-bodied than a regular Loire Valley rosé.
Do your sparkling wines sell well?
Yes, sparkling wines from Loire Valley are well appreciated all around the world! We have a lot of wine lovers who appreciate our bubbles in France, Russia, and the U.S! Actually, we use the same method as that used in champagne production, so our bubbles are very tiny and guarantee immediate tasting pleasure.
Are your wines available in the U.S and in Florida, for our local readers?
We just have started to work with the U.S. Our bestseller La Grange 2018 is available in California and will be soon in Florida. As I’ve mentioned above, this wine is also available in the sky during some flights of American Airlines, which is our great pleasure!
Are you seeking wider distribution in the U.S.?
Yes, we are looking for new partners in different states of the U.S. In this hectic time, we make a lot of virtual tastings, but we can’t wait to come to U.S. for wine fairs to present our production and to visit your beautiful country!
Tel: 02 40 36 23 30
SCEA Domaine de la Guipière
La Guipière 44330