Wine: Muscadet boasts barrel-loads of character
Muscadet is a bone-dry French white wine with a subtle stony character from the Melon Blanc, aka Melon de Bourgogne, grape variety. Muscadet is not related in any way to the highly aromatic, floral and fruity Muscat.
It's from France's most northerly vineyards on the Atlantic coast where the River Loire enters at the fishing port of Nantes, bordering Brittany. The Muscadet vineyards are mostly south of the city of Nantes, with those around the Loire's tributary rivers regarded as higher in quality. The nearby cooling Atlantic accounts for the lower alcohol levels, rarely more than 12pc and light-bodied with crisp acidity for added refreshment.
While very neutral in character, additional flavour is coaxed from the wine by aging over the winter months on its lees in tank or cask. The lees (the yeast cells spent after fermentation) release a subtle yeasty character while giving the wine a little more body and weight. This practice, known as "Sur Lie" was the result of a tradition called the Honeymoon Barrel where a barrel of wine with its lees was kept in reserve for special occasions such as family weddings. These wines were found to have a creamy mouth-feel and more flavour. "Sur Lie" has become a Muscadet speciality of growing importance commercially.
1) Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie 2012, Domaine de la Louvetrie 13pc
Made with grapes grown biodynamically or super organically. Cheesy, yeasty aromas. Intense pithy and zesty grapefruit flavours and finish with the refreshing acidity well integrated. Chill with a fiery chicken with cayenne pepper.
€16.75 online at Wines Direct Store, Mullingar and on-line: winesdirect.ie
2) Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie 2013, The Exquisite Collection 11.5pc
Fragrant with white flowers and green apples. Zesty flavours and light alcohol to best flatter spicy creole gumbo.
€8.49 at Aldi nationwide
3) Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie 2012, Domaine de la Noë 12pc
Classic aromas of freshly kneaded dough. Mineral character dominating; delicate and elegant. Classy and restrained style with a long lingering mineral and zesty finish. Open with oysters.
€13.50 in Dublin at Thomas's, Foxrock; Sweeney's, Glasnevin; Vintry, Rathgar; Martin's, Fairview and Morton's in Ranelagh and in Galway.
4) Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie 2012, Chateau Cassemichere 12pc
Hint of yeast on the nose. Lemony and mineral flavours. Crisp and invigorating style. Snack with pork and sage sausages.
€13.99 at Village Stores, Ballyvaughan; Cases of Galway and O'Neill's, Carrickmacross. In Dublin at Cork's, Terenure and Redmond's, Ranelagh.
5) Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie 2013, Domaine de la Chauviniere 12pc
White blossom and yeasty aromas. Zesty, pithy, mineral and pebble stony flavours. Lively style with a mineral and salty finish. Experiment with Japanese tempura-battered prawns.
€14 at Dicey Reilly's Off-licence, Market Street, Ballyshannon and online at jnwine.com
6) Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie 2012, La Part du Colibri, Vincent Caillé 12pc
Pithy and green apple skin flavours with integrated acidity. Sappy and apple fresh. Very forgiving of mayonnaise with scampi and chips.
€16 online at FrenchWines.ie