I visited Domaine de l’Ecu in June 2014 about a week after writing the final Diploma exam. I was still recovering from WSET trauma – but eager to meet renowned winemakers Guy Bossard and Fred Niger van Herck at this winery located southeast of Nantes on the easternmost fringes of France’s Loire Valley.
Under Guy’s control since about 1972, Domaine de l’Ecu has been organic since 1975 and Demeter-certified (biodynamic) since 1988. Together with other biodynamic leaders (including Nicholas Joly, Olivier Humbrecht and Stephane Tissot), they belong to the group ‘Renaissance des Appellations’ which sports the url ‘return-to-terroir’ and whose basic premise for winemakers is to employ ‘…actions which permit an Appellation to express itself.”
Now in semi-retirement, Guy has handed the reigns over to a charming and dynamic Fred who has proven to be a more-than-capable successor. Eager to espouse the tenets of biodynamic and natural winemaking, Fred talked endlessly during the visit about being forced to de-classify this wine (and others) from the Appellation because of “bureaucratic protests” regarding ‘typicity’ of flavour, aroma and texture. Thankfully he has a great sense of humour – which shows in their marketing too (ie: they have a wine called ‘Red Nez’).
This wine is all natural, unfined and unfiltered with no added sulfites. It was fermented with indigenous yeast and vinified completely in clay amphorae for 15 months. It’s hazy because of its natural status and is pale lemon with heavy legs. The nose is heavily mineral and herbal with notes of fennel and lemon balm with a great sweet black licorice aroma. Dry with medium minus alcohol and average acidity, it has medium plus body with medium plus flavours of more fennel, green herbs and lemon grass with that really cool didn’t-expect-to-find-it licorice note.
I had waited a while to open this – the WSET Diploma Survivors’ Group meeting was the perfect moment for sharing.