This week I wanted to discuss the white grape Muscadet, aka Melon de Bourgogne or Melon Blanc. In seeing the name Muscadet, it is common to think it is similar to the famous Muscat. Likewise, when seeing the name Melon de Bourgogne, some believe the wines come from the Burgundy region of France. These assumptions, while understandable, are both incorrect. They are also why there is an attempt to re-identify the grape as Melon Blanc. Whichever of the three names you choose to call it, it is a highly acidic grape from the western Loire Valley region in northwestern France. The wines made from it are a complete contrast to most of those made from Muscat. Instead of being highly aromatic, with varying levels of sweetness and levels of acidity that won’t cause a pucker, wines made of Melon Blanc are bone dry with more subtle aromas of citrus fruit and seashells. The Pays Nantais subregion of the Loire Valley, where most of the wines are produced, is known for high levels of rainfall. The close proximity to the ocean moderates the temperature, allowing the grapes to just reach full ripeness while maintaining those aforementioned levels of acid, and on occasion, imparting a touch of salinity to the wines.
Within the Pays Nantais is one of the most notable areas to produce wines of Melon Blanc, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine. It became a recognized wine producing appellation in 1936 and is one of the largest in the Pays Nantais. When shopping for these wines, it is quite common to see the words ‘sur lie’ on the label. This indicates the wine spends a minimum of 6 months on the dead yeast cells after fermentation is complete, similar to champagne. In the instance of Muscadet, the amount of time is much less, just enough to help balance the sharp acidity and increase the body of the wine. It is not typically enough time to infuse aromas of baked bread, which you commonly find in champagne.
This week, I chose a 2019 Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine from Saget Père and Fils that did not have sur lie aging. I accidentally overpoured my glass, making it difficult to swirl and smell the already dull aromatics but I made the best of it! The medium lemon colored wine had tiny bubbles that clouded the glass until they dissipated. It was watery with the slightest legs. The aromas of lemon peel, ripe green apple and pear, white peach, and wet stone were more pronounced than I anticipated. It definitely lived up to the promise of having a bright acidity while having a moderate level of body. The acidity is balanced by a surprising level of alcohol (13%). The aromas were all noted on the palate, with an accent of sea salt. These flavors all lingered for a reasonable length of time before fading. This wine would be perfect with oysters on the half shell or fresh seafood. This wine also marks #183