Domaine Girard, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, Tradition 2019
The silver light from the full moon barely illuminates the darkness inside the castle and the candles that burn in the stone hallways cast an eerie yellow glow that doesn’t warn of what’s ahead. A village of stone cottages with thatched roofs can be seen in the distance where peasants work the land from the early morning hours, some cultivating grapevines brought by the Romans centuries earlier. That was the reality of life in medieval France a thousand years ago, a time when the threat of Vikings attacking was as real as the lack of indoor plumbing.
The tranquil landscapes of green fields branded by vineyards we see today in north-western France beguile the long, tumultuous history of the Pays de la Loire. Its first inhabitants appear to have settled there during the Bronze Age, lured by iron and tin deposits in the subsoil more than 1,000 years before the region was conquered by the Romans. After the collapse of the Empire, Viking invasions became common in the area until they were vanquished in the Darkest of the Dark Ages, the 10th Century, when Nantes was made the capital city of the newly-established feudal Duchy of Brittany.
Thankfully, you’re more likely to get sprayed by a 40-foot mechanical wood-and-steel elephant on a hot summer afternoon than to cross paths with an armoured knight these days in the Loire Valley, though both are fantastical notions. Today, the Loire-Atlantique region is all about enjoying Muscadet white wine with fresh seafood brought from the nearby coast. The region’s dreamy and fantastical capital city of Nantes, the birthplace of Jules Verne—the legendary fantasy writer who imagined marvellous tales of the sea and the sky and all the wonders in between—offers a glimpse into its own ancient history with the preserved 13th Century château located in its city centre and the romantic modernity of the Machines of the Isle of Nantes. It also happens to be the perfect base from which to explore the nearby wine country.
It’s on the outskirts of the city, to the south-east and away from the ocean, that the wooded fields begin to morph into vineyards where the characteristic Melon de Bourgogne grapes grow. Just beyond an ancient low stone wall in the rural suburb of La Rebourgère, a narrow road meanders through miles of bright green-leaved vineyards in Maisdon-sur-Sèvre, a commune located in a forested area between the rivers Sèvre and Maine where the Domaine Girard produce their Tradition Muscadet.
Once a family farm with livestock, some cereal crops and grapevines, the Domaine Girard evolved into a vineyard in the 1960s. It’s now run by Guillaume Girard, a fourth-generation wine-maker, and his mother Martine and father Patrick, who took over from his own father Gaston in 1991. Today, they’re continuing the family’s vision of combining tradition and modernity to produce flawless wine. So pop open your bottle of the award-winning pale yellow Tradition with gold reflections, elegant floral shades of acacia and honey, and warm notes of candied citrus and grilled nuts, serve it as an aperitif or pair it with seafood or pressed cheeses like Gruyère and Emmental, and let it transport you to modern France.