Domaine de L'Aujardiere
This small domaine in the Pays de Retz, west of Nantes, differs from many of the western Loire domaines, in that the vineyards are in small valleys and on hillside slopes, rather than the flat plains. Eric Chevalier has recently taken over from his father, and is a young and enthusiastic winemaker. Apart from making very respectable Muscadet and Chardonnay, he is championing the revival of the ancient variety of Fié Gris, a fascinating variety of Sauvignon. The Nantais is a maritime climate, and the vineyards are not far from the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, there is an interesting variety of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks, as this area once was ocean floor. Of the twenty-five hectares he farms, a large percentage of his production is dedicated to the production of Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu, mostly from old vines in the superb lieu-dit of La Butte). The soils here are comprised primarily of serpentinite and quartz, with the exception of his ancient granite parcel known as La Noë. The other half of his crop (Chardonnay, Fié Gris, and Pinot Noir, among others) goes towards the production of Vin de Pays du Val du Loire, and the soils are rich in granite, sand, and silt. Of these “country” wines, the most notable is Éric’s Fié Gris. This grape, pulled out of vineyards for many years to be replaced with the more profitable Sauvignon Blanc, is indigenous to the Loire. Also known as Sauvignon Rose or Sauvignon Gris, Éric’s vines are one of the few remaining strongholds of this elegant and luscious varietal. It makes an impression, with almost an Alsatian exoticism.