Domaine de L'Ecu - The Pope of Muscadet
Last month when we returned from Taipei, we posted a quick blog post about one of our discoveries there—Domaine de L'Ecu, an icon of the Loire.
We say the word "icon" gingerly, and with certain reservations. The word itself is overused, bandied around a lot by grand wineries and merchants when they mention a cult Burgundy or a 99 Robert Parker rated wine. It goes without saying that iconic wines are supposed to be expensive and rare.
For us, iconic wines don't have to be expensive, and don't even have to be scored by critics, although most are certainly rare. We believe that the wines of Arianna Occhipinti are icons of Sicily. That Château du Cèdre is an icon of Cahors. And that Domaine de L'Ecu is an icon of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine.
The estate was one of the revelations of our visit to VinExpo 2014, which took place in May. We spent three days at the Convention Centre (hardly the most inspiring place, we know), spitting more than actually swallowing, because a lot of the wine there was simply dead. No energy, no vibrance, no excitement, nothing.
Then we met Fred Niger - the winemaker and owner of the estate. We couldn't believe he was here in Hong Kong after we had just tried his wines in Taipei by chance. He started us off with his whites and they were eye-opening, showcasing a series of single-vineyard Muscadets (with the highlight being his flagship cuvee "Taurus"). This is a Muscadet meant for aging; put it away for 5 years or give it a good decant prior to serving.
But we didn't know he made reds, and his Cabernets were the real stars.
The Cabernet Sauvignon 'RedNoz' is fermented semi-carbonically, giving it a freshness that we never knew was possible with such a powerful grape. It's delightful and zippy now - a barbeque wine that can even be chilled slightly for the summer.
'Mephisto', the Cabernet Franc, was taut and mineral, with just a hint of the earth and green pepper character that normally marks the Francs of nearby Chinon and Saumur-Champigny. It was more akin to the style of Catherine & Pierre Breton in Bourgueil, who make some of the most concentrated and textured Franc there is. 'Mephisto' needs time (probably 2-4 years to be ready), but the purity of the dark fruit stands out against the granite structure of the wine. This is semi-aged in amphora. Both 'RedNoz' and 'Mephisto' are bottled without sulphites.
The estate has been organic for over 40 years, and has been certified biodynamic by Demeter for over 20. All three of these wines are unfiltered and unfined; purity in a glass as always.