Eric Chevalier Fié Gris 2012
I’ve had reason to reflect upon the Loire Valley’s broad diversity of grape varieties this year. From Romorantin, such as the 2008 Thierry Puzelat Romorantin discussed two weeks ago, to the wines of Michel Quenouix so rich in Menu Pineau, to Pineau d’Aunis from the likes of Eric Nicolas and François-Saint-Meslier from Lionel Gosseaume, the Loire Valley boasts a fabulous varietal library. In recent weeks I have been try to ensure I understand them all, tasting and drinking wines made from less commonly encountered varieties, but also revisiting the region’s stalwarts including Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and, of course, Cabernet Franc.
The wine featured here is yet another example of a Loire curiosity; this is a Fié Gris (the local name for Sauvignon Gris), from Eric Chevalier of Domaine de l’Aujardière. Eric is a fourth-generation vigneron who took over the running of the family domaine from his father in 2005. Unusually considering the variety in question, the vineyards are located in St-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu, which is (as the name suggests) located very close to the Lac de Grand Lieu, the heart of the Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu appellation, south of Nantes. Eric’s main focus is therefore Muscadet and Melon de Bourgogne, but as is the case with a number of growers in this region he also has a few plots of other varieties, including Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc and a 2.5-hectare parcel of Fié Gris.
In a discussion of the variety per se, there isn’t really that much to say about Fié Gris, as in fact this is nothing more than a colour mutation of Sauvignon Blanc (it also goes by the name Sauvignon Rose). The name fié is probably derived from ferus, Latin for wild, a reflection upon the appearance of the vine which has leaves very similar in shape to wild grapevines. Of note, sauvignon has a similar derivation, originating from sauvage, also meaning wild. In the Loire Valley the variety can be found scattered along the length of the river, although plantings cannot be extensive, as the entire country can boast no more than 500 hectares. Despite a relatively strong presence here some appellations forbid its inclusion, it being outlawed in Sancerre for example. Nevertheless the authorities seem willing to turn a blind eye to its use, such as in Jadis from Henri Bourgeois, although I suspect they would probably not look so kindly on new plantings. This is a stark contrast to Bordeaux where the variety is permissible not only in Bordeaux Blanc but also in the region’s most famous white wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan. Other notable domaines working with the variety include Ampelidae and the one featured here, Domaine de l’Aujardière.
The style of wines made using this variety mirror that of Sauvignon Blanc to some extent, but there is a tendency towards a somewhat more perfumed nose, and a rather fatter, more textured palate. The 2012 Fié Gris from Eric Chevalier of Domaine de l’Aujardière typifies these characteristics, starting with a pale, straw-tinged hue in the glass. The nose seems true to the variety as it offers up melon fruit with a very lightly peachy and musky aromatic edge, one that is very reminiscent of Canary melon. The palate is slightly viscous with a slightly bitter and pithy grip to it, and around this backbone there is wrapped the gentle yellow-cream of the melon’s flesh. It remains slightly fat and gently perfumed through the middle, albeit with a nice acidity. While it perhaps misses the firm cut minerally, iodine-laced appeal of the wines made using Melon de Bourgogne, this is certainly an attractive, open and expressive wine. 15.5/20 (22/12/14)