Pierre-Jean Sauvion is the fourth generation of his family to produce wines at Château du Cléray in the Loire. The château itself has been owned by a négociant called Grands Chais de France since the early 2000s, but Pierre has been in charge of winemaking here since 2004, after several years of winemaking experience across Bordeaux, Australia and California.
The handsome property is surrounded by vines, and Pierre showed a passion for winemaking since childhood: indeed, he claims the reason he looks so youthful is because he has been drinking Muscadet since he was three years old!
The property is in the heart of the Nantais, at the western end of the Loire, close to the ocean and its helpful cooling breezes. Most of the Sauvions’ 35ha of vines is in the central Sèvre-et-Maine area of Nantes, producing Muscadet using the melon de bourgogne (muscadet) grape, but the estate also has vines in the more coastal area, plus some sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. The property has been moving steadily towards fully sustainable viticulture.
The sand and gravel slopes here are typical of the nearby commune of Vallet and make for later-ripening grapes, but also contribute to the wines’ greater ageing potential, producing Muscadet with a nod back to the melon grape’s Burgundian origins.
The château produces everything from entry-level single varietal wines to its most premium ‘Haute Culture’ range, which includes ‘Cardinal Richard’, a wine named after the château’s owner in the nineteenth century. Blended from a number of premium vineyard sites in the region, it is only produced in the very best vintages, and is a fine example of a quintessential Muscadet. The grapes for this wine are pressed in the innovative pneumatic press, before being fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks, and then spending six months maturing on the fine lees before bottling in the spring.