Like the poverbial gentle giant, Marc Ollivier is happiest outdoors, speaks slowly and carefully (in both French and English), and always has a broad smile or laugh ready. He is unstinting when lauding fellow vignerons in Muscadet, but just as much praise should go to him for making some of the greatest wines in the region since 1984, when he started the domaine with inherited land.
The dialect word ‘Pépière’ (which means thirst, e.g. ‘avoir la pépiè’) had long been associated with his family land due to the presence of a well. Marc has worked incredibly hard and traded shrewdly to convert his initial holdings into some of the best vineyards around Clisson, which he has further improved with organic farming. He has also been experimenting with different ploughing techniques and cover crops to increase biodiversity and vine resilience in recent years.
Marc’s wines more than match up to the promise of his land – they are clear, robust examples of granite-based Muscadet, although we are very excited by what he has done on gneiss as well. It’s what he doesn’t do which makes his wines so outstanding – he doesn’t add yeasts to start or speed up the fermentation, he doesn’t use enzymes to develop certain fruit flavours, and he doesn’t rush to bottle, often waiting more than a year for his top wines. Coupled with a commitment to manually harvesting only the best fruit, it’s a recipe for some of the most astonishing wines in the region.
Clisson is one of the top communes in Muscadet due to the preponderance of granite, and Marc’s granite-based range harnesses the inherent power and purity of the terroir. For daily drinking we prefer the spring water like domaine wines, while the terroir-designated wines often require age to reach their true potential. The domaine white is fresh and pure every vintage, while the later bottling (‘AB’) has herbal elements from slightly older vines (about a half-century or more). We find it difficult to choose between the Clos des Briords, Granite de Clisson and Ch. Thebaud; the Clisson is sharp as a razor, in contrast to the exotic and punchy Ch. Thebaud, while the Clos des Briords sits between the two. Marc also has a gneiss-based cuvee named Les Gras Moutons, which is lush and round, as befitting the soil, while we have a fondness for the barrel-fermented and -aged Clos Cormerais, which is as unique as it sounds.