2018 Domaine L’ Ecu, Pinot Noir “Ange” Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
This ultra small production wine is fast becoming one of my favorite Pinot Noirs, it is a wine that is totally unique, showing purity, energy and a soulfulness that few Burgundies in the price class could ever match, then considering it comes from the lower Loire Valley and never sees a barrel makes it even more intriguing. The beautifully ruby/garnet Ange, Angel in French, by Domaine de L’Ecu is 100% whole cluster fermented in stainless steel and then aged in amphora without any additives and without the addition of sulfur at all which allows the complexity and clarity of the fruit to shine brightly, which this Pinot does heavenly. Fred Niger, one of the great producers of the Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine is deeply committed to biodynamic and organic practices at Domaine de L’Ecu, which was founded back in 1972 by Guy Bossard, who himself pioneered organic and biodynamics in the region and certified the estate by Demeter in 1998. Niger, who worked with Bossard, took over the domaine in 2012 and has taken this winery to new heights in quality and style, focusing on natural and holistic wines. Niger’s US importer Floraison Selections says Fred takes these commitments organic and biodynamic farming even further by incorporating various types of energy work, and using that work not just in the vines, but also in the cellar, working in terra-cotta amphora and working without any added sulfur in many cuvées. Amphora are made of the earth, which Fred believes gives his wines a natural extension to its place and brings out a spiritual connection between all the elements that came together to make the wine, soil (earth), climate and the people that cared for the vineyard and guided the wine into bottle.

I first started trying Niger’s amphora wines with his early bottlings of Mephisto, the terra-cotta aged Cabernet Franc with the demon on the label, which really impressed me and this Ange, with its divine angel label, made from 100% whole cluster Pinot Noir takes it all to another level with a hyper sense of clarity and detail, it is absolutely the most compelling Pinot Noir made in the Loire Valley I’ve ever experienced. The 2018, just a touch lighter and more elegant than the fantastic and concentrated 2016 version, making it seem more graceful and focusing your attention to its subtly, but the true depth is just as impactful and impressive with crushed violets, wild herbs, strawberries and mineral notes leading the way before the Angle’s medium bodied palate comes alive with vibrant cherry, plum and raspberry fruits along with spicy elements, a touch of whole cluster crunch, stony tones, blood orange, supple tannin and a caressing satiny mouth feel. This is gorgeous stuff from Domaine de L’Ecu and I highly recommend this to Pinot fans as well as natural wine enthusiasts, as it takes this genre to a place it rarely gets to. The 2018 Ange, sans soufre (no added sulfur) should gain with bottle age and drink fabulously well for a decade, though care in cellaring will be needed with no big swings in temperatures, and it should reward those lucky enough to have any left in 3 to 5 years, I will be hard pressed not to open all my bottles sooner v. later! Best to serve with a little chill and enjoy it with simple and fresh cuisine, I could imagine it going excellently and joyously with salmon and especially seared Ahi tuna. Be sure to check out the full lineup of single soil plot Muscadets by Ecu as well as Niger’s special offerings, like this one.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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