Domaine de l'Ecu Muscadet Classic 2022
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Press 4 Mix/White • September 2023 Direct Press Selection
I first encountered Domaine l'Ecu before Fred Niger took over from the original owner, Guy Bossard. Organic for 40 years, biodynamic for 20, Ecu is one of the bright lights of the region, and Fred's tenure has elevated the Ecu name to become a staple of the natural wine community. He is known for frequent collaboration with other winemakers, experimentation with amphora, and a mind that is finely attuned to the forces of nature. He insists on vineyard practices with low yields, high biodiversity, and harvesting by hand. In the cellar he uses indigenous yeasts, gravity instead of pumps, and the lowest amount of sulfur he can get away with.
Despite being such a dynamic estate, the local AOC is sadly so backwards that after many decades Fred stopped asking to have his wines officially labeled Muscadet. The tasting panel gave him a warning about being atypical, threatening to declassify them, and he beat them to it, deciding it was time to leave for good.
Less buttoned-up than most Muscadet, it’s still a soulful example of the stony, savory brilliance capable in the region. Spicy pear, mint, wet rocks, and salty snickerdoodle overtones. I wouldn't say this is textbook Muscadet exactly, it has more give because it goes through malolactic transformation. Most producers block malo with sulfur and temperature to create the crispy green apple notes. Here you get a version with less sulfur that truly delivers the granite and orthogneiss soils that Fred wants to express. It's a wine that I think gets better with a little air, and I bet it will age nicely for 5-10 years. Jonathan Kemp