A white grape variety largely associated with the Muscadet appellation in the western Loire Valley of France, Muscadet is also known as Melon de Bourgogne and Melon (in the United States). We know that in French wine nomenclature, the emphasis is generally more on the region and not the type of grape they're made from, as terroir plays an important role in winemaking. However, Muscadet is an exception to this norm. The grape variety is also known as Muscadet de Bourgogne.
Muscadet is a bone-dry, light-bodied white. These wines are lean and green, and have a fascinating saline-like quality to the taste. In fact, the Muscadet vineyards closer to the sea receive more of this salty note due to the sea breezes.
Cooler climate conditions play a huge role in giving the wine its acidity and complexity. In hotter climates, the grape can be bland and devoid of any discerning characteristics.
Melon de Bourgogne is a prominent grape variety from the Loire Valley in France. The variety is known for its ability to thrive in colder climates. It was due to this quality that Melon de Bourgogne was introduced to Loire Valley in the 1700s, many of the region’s vines were claimed by a ruthless winter. Muscadet buds early and that too at a high rate, which enables it to produce a decent yield even in case of spring frosts. While Muscadet is highly susceptible to mildew, it is not a major concern for winemakers since the grape is mostly grown in colder regions.
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There are four key appellations for this grape variety- the most prominent being Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine. The other three key appellations are Cotes de Grandlieu, Coteaux de la Loire and Muscadet. All the appellations enjoy a maritime climate and have rich alluvial soil that is packed with potassium, magnesium and calcium which help the vine thrive.
Muscadet Sévre et Maine and Muscadet appellations produce 100 percent Muscadet wines that are lighter in style, but the Muscadet appellation has lower quality standards than Muscadet Sèvre–et-Maine.
Muscadet Sévre et Maine appellation produces wines aged on the lees (labelled “sur lie”) which is a process of ageing wines on suspended dead yeast particles (called lees). Lees-aged Muscadet attains a creamy texture and yeasty flavour. The longer the wine is on lees, the richer its texture becomes. Many producers will lees age their best wines for two to three years. You will find a touch of fruit in these wines in the form of subtle citrus flavours and subtle unripe apple or pear notes.
Muscadet Sévre et Maine is replete with chalky limestone soils and gravels, along with clay deposits along the river banks. The best Sèvre-et-Maine wines have a discernible minerality, and many credit the chalky limestone soils found within the area for this characteristic.
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The Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu appellation is situated around a large natural lake called Lac de Grand Lieu. This appellation too experiences a wet maritime climate and the resulting drop in temperature helps preserve the flavours in the grapes and prevents them from becoming bland. Meanwhile, the Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire appellation covers vineyards on the east and northeast of Nantes city. Most winemakers from these two appellations too leave their wines sur lie so that they can get a rich and creamy texture.
Light-bodied white wines like Muscadet are perfect palate cleansers due to their naturally high acidity. They will happily stand up to zesty vinaigrettes and other high-acidity dressings. Muscadet goes well with seafood, particularly mussels and oysters.
If you want to pair it with cheese, then go for something creamy and melty, Swiss fondue, grilled cheese, brie or gouda.
For vegetarians, a warm and hearty lentil soup is a good pairing with Muscadet.
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