Muscadet is a dry white wine from the extreme west of the Loire Valley near the port town of Nantes. It is enjoying quite a revival at present as sommeliers and gourmets alike are appreciating its yeasty “sur lies” character and pure, salty, mineral notes as a great match for modern cuisine and the “umami” factor.
Produced from the Melon de Bourgogne grape (which has nothing to do with Burgundy, and for that reason today they only use the word Melon in the region), Muscadet is the most produced wine in the Loire. The grape was first planted in the early 18th century and Dutch traders praised it for its neutral, pure flavours when they used the grape for distillation purposes. There are three different production zones but the area of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine is by far the largest with 80% of the total wine being produced here. The Atlantic Ocean is a great influence on the zesty character of Muscadet. The mineral rich soils are made up of clay, gravel schist and sand.
The “sur lie” mention on the label refers to the way the wines are made; after fermentation, the wine is allowed to age on the dead yeast cells (lees), which through the process of autolysis, add depth, body and structure to the wine. The wines are light and crisp and depending upon the length of aging on the yeast, can have deep, bready flavours rather similar to Fino sherry. Their obvious food matching is the oysters and other shellfish from the coast.