“Pierre Luneau-Papin’s family has been growing Melon around Le Landreau for two centuries. Nowadays, 45 hectares split into some dozen principal parcels are farmed in that commune as well as those of La Chapelle Heulin and Vallet. Pierre’s son Pierre-Marie officially took over in 2011 after six years’ employment at the estate (before which he worked his way through cellars in far-flung regions of France). But this is still a conspicuously two-generation operation, with Monique Luneau-Papin and Marie Chartier comprising the female half of the domaine “directorate.” The Luneau-Papins have long been plowing their vines and eschewing herbicides, but following Pierre-Marie’s lead, a gradual conversion to certified organic viticulture has just been completed. Harvesting, carried out by a crew that is enormous by regional standards, is almost entirely by hand, especially important in that the Luneau-Papins like to allow for pre-fermentative skin contact (whose duration varies with their assessment of site potential). As a self-professed fan of Riesling who likes to draw comparisons with the “minerality” and ageability of Muscadet, it’s unsurprising that Pierre-Marie was enthusiastic about 2014’s qualities (though not, to be sure, about the quantities), but in fact the 2015s at this address are superbly focused and unusually bright, easily surpassing most Muscadet from that vintage. Interestingly, harvest in 2014 finished on October 6, only around a week later than it would in 2015. I tend to be relatively uninhibited in my prognostications of ageability for Luneau-Papin wines because I cellar many of them myself and consequently have a lot of positive experience with their evolution. For an idea of the slow pace at which they mature, just consult my notes below on wines from the impressive 2012 and 2010 vintages, as well as on one remarkable success from challenging 2011.
Since I am reporting in detail on two vintages as well publishing notes on the just-mentioned older wines, a brief synopsis follows of the various Luneau-Papin cuvées, only two of which rely on vines younger than 40 years. “Pierre de la Grange,” while it’s their intro-level cuvée and sourced from a number of sites, is still terroir-focused and geographically specific, issuing from degraded gneiss and mica-schist near the winery in Le Landreau. There’s also a “La Grange Vieilles Vignes” variant grown entirely on schist. Also bottled in spring is the “Clos des Allées Vieilles Vignes,” from an eroded mica-schist enclave near the winery that has been in the family for many generations and was last replanted in 1970. “Le L d’Or,” bottled in summer, now also proclaims on its label “Granit Vallet,” though this site incorporates some regionally prevalent gneiss and mica-schist. “Les Pierres Blanches” issues from an eponymous site with 60-year-old vines, and its label now also carries the prominent information “Gneiss la Chapelle Heulin.” It always ferments spontaneously and is usually bottled in early summer. “Terre de Pierre” reflects a high-elevation location, La Butte de la Roche, featuring rare serpentine rock (depicted on the label) and vines recently turned 40. It gets raised in foudres and has usually been bottled within 14 months, though the élevage may be extended in some future vintages, which would preclude the wine from retaining a “Sur Lie” designation. (Talk about perpetuating a fundamentalist faith in terroir: the label for “Terre de Pierre” not only depicts a colorful cross-section of serpentine rock, but superimposed over that are the periodic symbols for its constituent elements: Mg, Fe, Si, Na and Ca.) “Excelsior,” named for the family motto emblazoned over the winery doorway, issues from a two-hectare schist and mica-schist site (the Clos des Noëlles, for which the wine was formerly named) whose 80-year-old vines reflect sélection massale. Its Chapelle-Heulin location, along with two years’ élevage, qualifies for “Cru Goulaine” status. From similar soils but vines of diverse clonal origin and still in their forties, “Pueri Solis” was first essayed in 2005. It will be rendered only in especially ripe vintages (2009 being, thus far, the only other one) and spend roughly three years in tank. Beginning with vintage 2015, a “Vera Cruz” has been designated from Vallet vines planted in 1975 on relatively clay-rich, mica-schist- and gneiss-derived soil; and a “Le Verger” – to be bottled exclusively in magnum – issues from La Chapelle-Heulin schist and vines planted in 1998 on the site of a garden grown by Pierre-Marie’s grandmother.”
David Schildknecht, Vinous (05/17)