Many feel that Domaine de l'Ecu (along with a very small group of other domaines, of course) is to thank for how Muscadet is thought of today. The domaine's early influence can be attributed to three main factors:
1) Early adoption of organic viticulture in the Loire, well before it was fashionable to do so. The vineyards of Domaine de l'Ecu have been certified organic by Ecocert for over 40 years and certified biodynamic by Demeter for over 20 years.
2) Stong belief in the unique terroirs of Muscadet that inspired vinification and bottling based on soil type, as opposed to appellation blends. Thus the famed terroir wines were born from the subsoils of Orthogneiss and Granite.
3) Unlike most regular Muscadet, the wines are aged sur-lie for 15-18 months, resulting in a texture and layered complexity that have come to define the unique style of Domaine de l'Ecu Muscadets and set them apart from other wines in the appellation. In fact, some Loire cogni scenti have argued that Domaine de l'Ecu should be its own appellation - like Chateau Grillet, for example - due to the singularity of the wines.
Besides these factors, there are a series of non-negotiable "house rules" that apply to all the wines at Domaine de L'Ecu: biodiversity in the vineyards, low yields, harvesting by hand, fermentation with indigenous yeast, no pumping or racking of the must (only gravity), and minimal use of sulfur. All in all, it is a philosophy of "no make-up"; just true wines without adulteration or artifice.
Under the direction of dynamo Fred Niger, who purchased the property from legendary farmer Guy Bossard, the domaine has maintained its reputation as a top grower of terroir-transparent, age-worthy Muscadet, and has evolved and expanded into new realms with its extensive line Vin de France varietal wines aged in a combination of amphora and barrel, and sometimes amphora alone.
Fred is as fanatical in the cellar as he is in the vineyards. His passion and connection to the natural world guide his every move. He is present, observant and mindful, always with the aim of working in tandem with the forces of nature and never against them. This commitment is strongly felt in the hauntingly peaceful room of amphoras, where Fred explores the energy exchange between vessel and wine, with the ultimate goal of transmitting this energy to those of us who have the pleasure of drinking these vibrant, lively, deep and pure expressions of soil and grape.
Frid Niger is a true visionary. His endless experiments and collaborations with fellow vignerons (see: Temps des Copains and Love & Grapes labels), have earned him a place in the wine world's most adventurous and creative circles. We are delighted to be in his orbit.