The Lac de Grand Lieu has a very strong history as a trading route, one which began many centuries ago, during the Gallo-Roman era. From this time onwards the salt marshes of the Atlantic coast were gradually transformed into a regulated and organised network of salt beds, and after the decline of the Western Roman Empire the working of these beds fell to various religious orders. In this region it was the Benedictine monks who stepped into the salt-workers’ shoes, draining the marshland of the Île de Noirmoutier, creating a myriad shallow pools filled with seawater which, as it evaporated, would crystallise with salt.
Once the salt had been gathered up it was transported across the bay to Saint-Cyr-en-Retz, an ancient port now long silted up, and then taken inland up ancient waterways. The route took the hardy monks and their precious cargo directly across the Lac de Grand Lieu. In doing so they established a trading route from the coast to deep inland, one which was still in use many centuries later. By this time much of the land around the Lac de Grand Lieu was planted with vines, and traders looking to move their wine to the coast realised they could make use of this well-established route. Vignerons in the commune of St-Philibert-de-Grand-Lieu, which sits around and to the south of the lake, would have been well placed to take advantage.
Today there are only about forty domaines active in the Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu appellation, a number of which are situated in St-Philibert-de-Grand-Lieu. One family in particular, the Chevalier clan, at Domaine de l’Aujardière, is of interest. For three generations they remained firmly under the radar, but this situation has slowly been changing since the swearing in of the fourth generation, Eric Chevalier (pictured above), in 2005. This profile looks at the story of Eric and his domaine, and how it has developed since he took hold of the reins.