2013 Domaine St Nicolas “Les Clous,” Fiefs Vendéens, Loire Valley


Les Clous is always made from some combination of chenin blanc, chardonnay, and groslot gris (one of the obscure varieties indigenous to the Loire Valley); in 2013 it looks to be equal parts chenin & chardonnay with only 10% groslot, but with wine like this the vineyard is more important than what grows in it.  Thierry Michon’s parcels are but a few kilometers from the sea, in the far western Loire Valley (he likes to call it “le fin du monde”), and all of his wines have a briny edge to show for it.  His vines grow in heavy schist and flinty silex, yielding pronounced mineral character (try Le Haut des Clous for convenient truth).  Les Clous is a terrific weeknight wine and as versatile an apéritif as it is with food.  Incidentally, “clous” are nails but we suspect the wine takes its name from the idiomatic “rester dans les clous,” which translates roughly “to do things properly.”  Indeed.

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Thierry Michon’s property is in the Fiefs Vendéens, located not far from the Atlantic in the westernmost vineyard district of the Loire Valley; he semi-affectionately calls it “le fin du monde,” and wondered aloud when we first visited him in 2011 why some Americans from San Francisco would show up there to taste his wines.  He honestly thought maybe we were lost, but we weren’t any more so than we usually are.  It was raining mercilessly, that day in November, and we were sadly limited to a tour of his small winery and a quick tasting of his wines (we have a tough job, but don’t cry for us).  When we visited again in May 2014, the sun was shining and Thierry took us on a whirlwind tour of the area.  The man is a gifted, respectful farmer and his magnificent vineyards accurately reflect his ideas, but the other places he took us may have made a deeper impression: a 9th century church in Brem-sur-Mer (he wanted us to understand the spiritual and historical power of his homeplace), the cemetery where generations of his family are buried (so we could appreciate his personal connection to the land), and the little house where his parents live (his barefoot father went out to the garden and picked for us the most beautiful head of lettuce we’ve ever seen).  Although we think his wines grew empirically better between our visits, it wasn’t until we tasted the wines that day after our tour that we truly understood the soul of what Thierry is doing way out there, in “le fin du monde.”  We hope it works for you, too.


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