I cut my teeth on wine as a student in France, as the supermarkets had a vast range of affordable wine – nearly all French of course. Like most countries in Europe, wine in France is sold primarily based on the area it is made in, the “appellation”, which has strict rules on vineyard site, grapes, yada, yada, yada.
HOWEVER, once the rules are met then there are few quality checks of any substance, so many producers pile their bottles high and sell ‘em cheap. French supermarkets are very competitive on price, but unless you know the producer the quality is likely to be variable. This was especially the case for Muscadet, made in the western reaches of the Loire Valley close to Nantes. Bottles bought from French supermarkets almost put me off Muscadet for life!
BUT, good quality Muscadet IS out there. Here are two I tried recently which have restored my faith. No more paint-stripper, hurrah!
Given the long name of this wine, perhaps a bit of decoding is in order. “Sèvre-et-Maine” is a sub-district of the Muscadet appellation named after two rivers (very picturesque, I’m sure). “Sur Lie” means that the wine was left to mature on the yeast lees over the winter, giving a slight creaminess and sometimes even a slight spritz to the wine.
How does this translate into the glass? It’s clean and zippy, with ripe fruit flavours. The acidity is high but it’s refreshing rather than astringent – would be a great aperitif with nibbles or just for sipping in the sun.
Jérémies Huchet and Mourat are young winemakers who collaborate for their “Curious Beasts” label, aiming to produce wines which highlight the diverse soils and microclimate of the western Loire. This particular bottle “The Partridge of the Year” (don’t ask) is made from vines grown on granite and sand, giving riper flavours than the modest alcohol of 12.0% would indicate.
Of course made from 100% Melon de Bourgogne, the grapes are fermented with indigenous (wild) yeast then left on the lees for 3 months. It’s a clean and fresh wine – yes, it has a saline streak and would be great with oysters, but there’s much more to it. There’s an abundance of citrus and apple fruit flavours – in fact a combination of Granny Smith’s and Golden Delicious!
Frankie caught the wine bug living in France in the 90s and has been sharing his love of wine ever since. He also writes for his own blog Frankly Wines, Glass Of Bubbly magazine and he runs private wine tasting events.