Rémy Pannier is the Loire Valley's single largest wine producer, accounting for about 15% of all Loire Valley wine production, with markets in over 40 countries worldwide. In the early 1990s, Rémy Pannier, which had long operated as a négoçiant concern, moved toward becoming a producer. Since 2002, Remy Pannier has been directly owned by its alliance of grape growers and vineyard owners. Rémy Pannier has been identified with premium quality Loire Valley wines since 1885, when it was founded by François Rémy, who developed it into a prosperous local négoçiant concern, buying, blending, bottling and selling Loire Valley wines. François was succeeded by his son, Louis, whose wife, Marie Pannier, provided the second part of the company’s name. Louis, in turn, was succeeded by his son Maurice, an engaging, adventurous man who is credited with generating a widespread following for Rémy Pannier wines in France and the development of new markets abroad. Maurice’s heirs retained a stake in the company until selling it in early 2002. Rémy Pannier’s headquarters are located at St.-Hilaire-St.-Florent near Saumur on the banks of the Thouet, a tributary of the Loire. Facilities include eight miles of underground cellars carved out from the chalk hills, an ideal environment for storing wine. Lead winemaker Karine Huibant, assisted by four full-time laboratory staff, oversees winemaking.
Pierre et Monique Luneau-Papin head this 30-hectare estate in Le Landreau, in the heart of Muscadet country, where small hamlets dot a landscape of vineyards on low hills. Their estate, also known as Domaine Pierre de la Grange, has been in existence since the early 18th century when it was already planted with Melon de Bourgogne, the Muscadet varietal. Pierre and Monique are the eighth generation of winemakers in the family. Pierre is a genial, low-key, distracted professor type. He’s the winemaker and vineyard work supervisor. His wife Monique, lively, energetic and equally genial, is the business manager. Muscadet is an area where, unfortunately, a lot of undistinguished bulk wine is produced. Because of the size of their estate, and of the privileged terroir of the villages of Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, the Luneau family has opted for producing smaller cuvées from their several plots, which are always vinified separately so as to reflect their terroir’s particular character. The soil is mainly micaschist and gneiss, some plots are a mix of silica, volcanic rocks and schist. The estate has a high proportion of old vines, 40 years old on average, up to 65 years of age.
Château de la Ragotière
Built by the noble Loré de la Ragotiere family in the fourteenth century, Château de la Ragotière was purchased in 1979 by the Couillaud brothers. After acquiring the property, Bernard, François and Michel discovered an old cellar in the chapel housing vintages dating back to 1947. The Couillaud brothers strive to carry on the tradition of making high quality, long-lasting Muscadets. In addition to their Muscadet, the Couillaud brothers produce estate bottled Chardonnay under the Domaine de Bernier and Les Frères Couillaud labels. The wines are from 15 year old vines and 8% of the Bernier Chardonnay is barrel-fermented in French oak. The remainder, like their Muscadet, is aged “sur lie” in tanks, creating Chardonnays with lively acidity. The Sèvre and Maine rivers converge and flow into the Loire river just before it meets the sea at the border of Brittany, creating the richest vineyard land in Muscadet. Ragotière’s holdings consist of 55 hectares including 25 hectars of the finest Muscadet vineyards in the Appellation Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, with the vines averaging over 25 years of age.