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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine de l’Ecu Expression de Granite 2007

France (Loire)

melon de Bourgogne (muscadet)

[no website]

The 20 hectares of Domaine de l’Ecu are located in Sèvre et Maine, considered the best region of the Muscadet appellation. Named after two local rivers, the region is at the western end of the Loire Valley, surrounding the city of Nantes. The nearby Atlantic Ocean brings cooler temperatures and more rain than the rest of the valley. It is a challenging terroir, even more so for vignerons who choose the organic route, with its reduction of fungal treatments. Spring frost also sometimes plays havoc with the vines, as it did in 2008, resulting in yields much lower than usual.

GUY BOSSARD is a fifth generation vigneron. He produces excellent wines in this underappreciated appellation. The estate turned organic more than thirty years ago, when it was discovered that his father had developed serious health problems due to agro-chemicals. By the early 1990s the estate was undertaking conversion to biodynamics.

Bossard produces three cuvées of Muscadet, labelled by the composition of the soil. Expression de Granite uses grapes from three hectares defined by its granite subsoil. Here the drainage is easy and the roots of the vines run deep. The general infertility of the soil brings a mineral complexity to the grapes. To nurish the vines Bossard adds his own compost mixture of algae, basalt and organic material from the forest floor.

Melon de Bourgogne is a somewhat low-key, neutral grape. In uninspired hands it produces simple wines. The best vignerons work with their terroir to bring out flavour and increase complexity. One of the keys to the richness of Bossard’s wines is aging sur lie, on the lees or yeast residue, following fermentation. It brings a fuller body to the wines, and texture closer to that of a white Burgundy. It adds substantially to the aging potential.

Muscadet’s acidity and alcohol level of under 12% allow it to pair nicely with a variety of foods. It goes especially well with seafood. It has developed a reputation for being the perfect complement to oysters. And how about mussels? I knew the wine might have used a few more years in the bottle. But the mussels were waiting. I lacked willpower.

Domaine de l’Ecu Expression de Granite 2007

Pale straw in colour, and not a particularly expressive nose. Rather, it is the palate that seduces. Clean and crisp, with a fine mineral backbone. Slight chalkiness, with mollusk notes flavouring the acidity. Perhaps that’s mollusk-enticing notes. For with mussels it is a terrific match. The refreshing finish is of outstanding length, holding to a mild, but lingering aftertaste of citrus. This wine is sophisticated in its freshness and restraint, elegantly subtle, and a wine to make a regular part of your forays into the wines of the Loire.  $

Here Expression de Granite overlooks the community of Trinity. Besides a rich history and a fine summer theatre festival (the reason for my visit), it is also home to an extensive mussel farm. And, like most Newfoundland communities, a goodly share of solid rock.

[Sadly, in 2009, after two particularly difficult vintages and without heirs to take over the domaine, Guy Bossard put his Domaine de l’Ecu up for sale.]

UPDATE (August 2010): I emailed Jacqueline Friedrich, author of “A Wine and Food Guide to the Loire” (and the equally terrific “The Wines of France”), to see if she knew more about what was happening at Domaine de l’Ecu. She replied, “It is for sale. Guy is reaching retirement age and neither of his daughters wants to take over the winery. That said, Guy will surely do the 2010 harvest and is likely to stay on as a salaried winemaker for at least three years, maybe longer, once a sale goes through. After that, he’d like to develop a consultant business — for producers interested in biodynamic farming.”

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