From: Loire Valley, France
Varietal: Melon de Bourgogne
Taste: In May 2023, Fred introduced the 2020 Ensemble Muscadet during his visit to Champion Wine Cellars. This one-time release is a testament to Fred’s innovative approach and devotion to expressing the authenticity of the terroir. The 2020 Ensemble, the last release to be classified under the “Muscadet” appellation, is a blend of three terroirs: Classic, Granite, and Orthogneiss.
Made entirely from Melon de Bourgogne and aged 10 months on the lees, the Ensemble offers a vibrant bouquet of citrus, smoke, and white flowers. On the palate, it exhibits the classic flinty dryness of Muscadet, coupled with green apple, lemon zest, and seaside brine, culminating in a mouth-watering acidity. The taste echoes with notes of lime, grapefruit, white fruits, pear, and apple, balanced by a beautiful acid screen; salty and citrus notes, and soft reminders of the sea add to its complexity.
Pairing: This Muscadet pairs perfectly with oysters, fried/poached/in paper/grilled/or sautéed white fish, or as a stellar accompaniment to a seafood platter complete with crab, mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops. Its depth of flavor and high acidity also make it an ideal companion to an aperitif or anything fresh: seasonal produce, fresh pastas or risottos that incorporate spring peas and ricotta cheese. In addition, dishes that incorporate fresh produce/raw or lightly cooked seafood, citrus, and rice elements like those found in Vietnamese, Japanese, or Thai cuisine (check out the crab cake recipe below) shine alongside wines like this.
Thai Style Crab Cakes
By Mark Bittman
About. Among the prestigious domaines of the Loire, Domaine de l’Ecu stands apart. Not just a historic property, it’s a pioneering force whose adoption of natural viticulture, terroir-centric bottlings, and extended lees aging have transformed the perception of the Muscadet appellation.
Fred Niger, the dynamic force steering the domaine's helm, continues to uphold the traditions of excellence while innovating and expanding in remarkable ways. Both in the vineyards and the cellar, he is deeply committed to working in tandem with nature, always looking to explore the exchange of energy between vessel and wine and eventually, between wine and drinker.
Much of the Muscadet renaissance owes its emergence to Domaine de l'Ecu and a select group of other domaines. Three pivotal factors have contributed to this shift:
1. A pioneering commitment to organic viticulture, dating back to when this practice was still gaining momentum. The vineyards of Domaine de l'Ecu have been certified organic by Ecocert for over 40 years and biodynamic by Demeter for over 20 years.
2. A strong belief in the unique terroirs of Muscadet led to vinification and bottling based on soil type, rather than appellation blends. This resulted in the creation of the famed terroir wines from the subsoils of Orthogneiss and Granite.
3. A departure from conventional Muscadet production through extended sur-lie ageing (15-18 months) that imparts a layered complexity and texture which sets Domaine de l'Ecu's wines apart.
These distinctions, along with several non-negotiable "house rules"—including biodiversity in the vineyards, low yields, hand harvesting, indigenous yeast fermentation, gravity-only handling of the must, and minimal sulfur use—have led some Loire cognoscenti to argue that Domaine de l'Ecu should be a standalone appellation.
The domain's spirit of innovation and excellence lives on under Fred Niger, who purchased the property from legendary farmer Guy Bossard. Fred’s connection to the natural world guides his every move, both in the vineyard and in the hauntingly peaceful room of amphoras where the Vin de France varietal wines, often amphora-aged, are made. Fred’s endless experiments and collaborations with fellow vignerons have earned him a spot in the wine world's most adventurous and creative circles.
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