Originally an engineer, Marc Ollivier decided at a young age to move to the country and take over a family plot of vines in the Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine appellation. His first vintage was 1985 and having no experience as a winemaker, his goal was simply to finish a fermentation without ruining the wine. He started with techniques still employed by most of his peers meaning cultured yeasts and lots of SO2. Very safe winemaking. He soon started experimenting with ambient yeasts and minimal SO2 and was struck by the results; greater depth, richness and complexity. He started transitioning all of his vineyards over to organic farming on original rootstocks and continued his minimalist approach in the cellar. His brilliant, mineral and citrus tinged wines are now the benchmark for the region. Fast forward 35 years and Marc is now recognized as one of France's truly great vignerons and an absolute giant among the elite growers in the Pays Nantais.
Among the various cuvées of Muscadet bottled chez La Pépière, the Gras Moutons is the sole example made from vines planted on gneiss bedrock. It’s also the most difficult one to source due to its micro production which has gotten even more difficult with some of this wine now going into the Monnier St Fiacre bottling. Gneiss is a lot like granite, the source of most of the other wines made here, but produces very different characteristics in Muscadet. Compared to Clos des Briords for example, one of the great granite based Muscadets grown here, the Gras Moutons is just a tiny bit more approachable in its youth though capable of maybe even longer aging. Where the Clos des Briords offers white flowers, lime zest and sea spray, the Gras Moutons is more lemon and mineral in a more compact frame. My perfect oyster wine and a great fish wine all around. Think dover sole, scallops and pretty much any delicate white fish in a butter sauce.
The 2015 Gras Moutons, bottled and released a little later then the Clos des Briords, has just landed and I’ve received my little allocation which I missed last year and every other year or so because I didn't act quickly enough. These 2015 Loire whites have been stunning, especially in the Pays Nantais. Delicate floral and citrus aromas and gorgeous minerality. Lean but dense textures and a long focused finish. At this price it’s definitely one of the best value white wines I've offered this year, most of the others being the various other Pépière cuvées. This will move quickly.