Muscadet wine is a French light-bodied white wine known for its supreme dryness. Muscadet comes from France’s Loire Valley and is made from a relatively neutral white grape called Melon de Bourgogne, often referred to simply as melon. The grape is prized in the region for its ability to withstand the cold and moist climate prevalent in the coastal area. With the cool and damp weather in the Loire Valley, the grapes take longer to achieve the required ripeness. Winemaking techniques have evolved in the region to adapt to the grape’s limitations and bring out more flavor and complexity.
Melon de Bourgogne is not particularly flavourful; rather, it is crisp and lean, and it retains high acidity levels. This led producers to go the extra mile and use unique techniques to give complexity to Muscadet. The grapes are harvested and pressed in September during a time they contain a lot of acidity. Many muscadet wines are produced sur lie, a French term that means “on the lees.” This is a maturation technique whereby the wine is kept in contact with its lees—dead yeast cells—after the process of alcoholic fermentation takes place. They must be left to age for six months in order to qualify for sur lie.
The flavor profile of muscadet wine can vary from very neutral to tangy and saline. Basic muscadet wine is light in body and light in tart, citrusy and mineral flavors with a little spritz. Higher-quality examples lean more toward a tangy saltiness and notes of flinty minerality with a smooth texture. Lees-aged muscadet attains an almost lager-like taste with a creamy texture and yeasty, biscuit flavors. The longer on lees, the richer the texture.
The temperate maritime climate and proximity to the sea add creaminess to the wine and vineyards closer to the sea receive more of a salty note due to salty sea breezes. Muscadet can be enjoyed young after one or two years of bottling. Those that are 10 to 20 years old tend to have rich and complex flavors.
Due to their natural high acidity saline notes, muscadet wines are a perfect palate cleanser. With its non-fruity characteristics and acidity, muscadet pairs well with cayenne heat, zesty vegetables and vinaigrettes, and many Asian cuisines. The many years of fermentation help to form a creamy texture that also goes well with tortillas and tacos. However, muscadet’s true calling is paired with seafood, especially oysters. With its acidity the wine cuts through the creaminess of shrimp, salmon and scallops and other light fish such as perch or herring.