|Éric Chevalier is a rising star in the Nantais of the Loire Valley. For ten years, he sourced fruit for a large negociant in the Touraine. In 2005, he decided to return to his hometown of Saint-Philbert de Grandlieu, just southwest of Nantes, and ended up taking over the family domaine, Domaine de l’Aujardiere, the next year. His father, a talented vigneron who did not bottle much of his wines and was well-known as a high-quality source of bulk wine, had stopped working the vineyards and the vines were either going to have to be pulled up and replanted, or sold. Éric was anything but enthusiastic. Little by little his passion grew, and today he is proud to be the fourth generation to farm the domaine. He is also proud to be bottling more and more of the family’s production himself. Éric sustainably farms twenty-five hectares of vines, producing wines of great character and finesse. He found his future in his family’s past.
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 Cotes 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 Noe. The other half of his crop (Chardonnay, Fie 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 Fie 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.