Fié Gris is a local name for Sauvignon Gris, a gray- to rosé-hued relative of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Mostly abandoned in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, where it was formerly planted with some regularity, the grape may be in the early stages of a comeback. Éric Chevalier’s version is solid proof that there is merit to the grape as a monocépage—it gives a unique, highly aromatic wine loaded with spicy and even tropical nuances. André Chatenoud of the Château de Bellevue in Lussac-Saint Emilion has also planted some in order to make a white Bordeaux, while Éric is lucky enough to have a parcel of older vines to work with. “Also known as Sauvignon Rose, this grape variety was widely planted in the Val de Loire and Haut-Poitou regions before the phylloxera crisis, but disappeared to the great advantage of Sauvignon Blanc, its closest cousin. Nowadays, only a select few vignerons still cultivate this rare grape, with the goal of exploiting its unique aromatic properties. The parcel was destined to be torn up by its previous proprietor, who was eager to retire, but his most faithful client—a sommelier from a restaurant on the Atlantic Coast—reached out to us in order to preserve this fascinating variety. This is a wine of real character that fully expresses the intimate relationship between the cépage and its special terroir in the Pays de Retz.” - Éric Chevalier
Éric Chevalier is a rising star in the Nantais of the Loire Valley. For ten years, he sourced fruit for a large négociant in the Touraine. In 2005, he returned to his hometown of Saint-Philbert de Grandlieu and ended up taking over the family domaine, Domaine de l’Aujardière. His father, a talented vigneron well-known as a high-quality source of bulk wine, had stopped working the vineyards and the vines were 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 4th generation to farm the domaine. Éric sustainably farms 25 hectares of vines, producing wines of great character and finesse. He found his future in his family’s past.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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