An ideal seafood wine, Muscadet (a wine, named for the region where it’s grown) is produced from a single white grape called “Melon de Bourgogne.” The grape name reveals its centuries-ago origins alongside Chardonnay and the Pinots of Burgundy (Melon is actually genetically related to Pinot Noir). Depending which history you believe, either Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy in the 1500’s banished the grape (along with Gamay, and Aligote’ ) from the prized vineyards of the Cote d’Or because it was too simple and ignoble, compared to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Or, Melon was simply selected by the Loire vigneron’s in the 1700’s for its cool-hardiness.
Either way, Melon flourished in its new home, and ever since it has been synonymous with wines from the furthest western end of the Loire River Valley, near Nantes. This is where the Loire River meets the Atlantic, where cold saline winds chill the grapes to preserve their acidity and where the freshness of its wine pairs wonderfully with the fresh-caught foods of the sea. The “Sèvre et Main” in the name refers to a specific area in Muscadet between the two rivers, Sèvre and Main.
If you find a wine simply labeled “Muscadet,” expect simple crisp, high acid, mineral-driven wines tasting of lemon or tart green apple. When “Sur Lie” is appended, this is a higher expression of the wine. The winemaker allows the post-fermented wine to rest on the dead yeast cells for a number of months. The process adds a creamy texture and a little weight that plays off the acidity on the palate. It may also contribute a certain biscuity, toast, or yeasty aroma and generally adds a more interesting texture.
Usually expect to pay $5 to $10 more with Sur Lie. “Muscadet Sevre et Main Sur Lie AOP” is a wine enjoyed daily with the famed Belon oysters of the Brittany region. It’s served widely with Moules Frites (Mussels and French Fries) in the bistros and brasserie of Paris and is actually the traditional wine called for in its preparation.