Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Muscadet Month: The Older Mysteries

In the Boston area, it is Muscadet May, a celebration of this famous Loire white wine, sponsored by Loire Valley Wines. You can find a number of participating restaurants and wine stores, as well as some special Muscadet tasting events. So you have plenty of opportunities to experience this delicious, and inexpensive, wine. I was fortunate to be invited to a Muscadet luncheon at Island Creek Oyster Bar, a chance to experience nine Muscadets with some local seafood.

I previously explored the The Mystery of Melon de Bourgogne, the grape which constitutes Muscadet, after attending a Loire Valley Wines tasting. I enjoyed numerous Muscadet wines at that tasting, and the 2008 Chateau de la Rogotiere Vielles Vignes Black Label 'Stelvin' Muscadet ($14.99) was even one of my 2010: Top Ten Wines Under $15.  But Muscadet still seems to be more of a niche wine, known far more to geeky wine lovers than the general public. Yet everyone should know of it, as it is an easy-drinking, value wine and especially great with seafood. For wine lovers, it can also offer plenty of complexity, as well as being indicative of its terroir.

We tasted three flights of Muscadet, three glasses per flight, and all nine wines tasted different. Muscadet can express itself in a variety of flavor profiles.  The first flight, with a classic pairing of Island Creek oysters and a Muscadet mignonette, consisted of 2009 Guy Saget Les Clissages d'Or Muscadet Sevre et Maine, 2009 Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie and 2010 Domaine de la Louvetrie Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie. All three cost about $12-$14 each, offering simple but delicious wines, with dominant fruit flavors including green apple and melon. My favorite of this group was the Louvetrie, which had a nice acidity to it. The Island Creeks, one of my favorite type of oyster, went great with the Muscadet, and these wines would have gone well with plenty of other seafoods, from shellfish to light fish dishes.

The second flight included 2009 Michael Delhommeau 'Cuvee Harmonie' Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, 2009 Domaine de L'Ecu 'Expression de Granite' Muscadet Sevre et Maine, and 2009 Domaine Les Hautes Noelles Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu. These wines, priced at about $14-$18, were single vineyard Muscadet and they evidenced strong mineral notes. The fruit flavors were there but beneath the more prominent stony and mineral tastes. More complex, these wines impressed me even more than the first flight. They offer excellent value and again would go very well with seafood. These wines were paired with English Pea Soup with Poached Kumamoto Oysters and Lemon Cream. I didn't think the pairing went that well, the flavors of the soup seeming to overpower the taste of the Muscadet.

For me, the highlight of the luncheon was the final flight, an opportunity to taste some aged Muscadet. You will find many sources telling you that Muscadet should be drank young, and that it does not age well. Yet that is not actually the case, and there are Muscadets which can mature wonderfully, and be quite compelling wines. These were probably the oldest Muscadets I have ever tasted, and they won't be the last as I will actively seek them out.  We got to taste the 1995 L D'or de Luneau-Papin 'Cuvee Medaillee' Muscadet Sevre et Maine, 1999 L D'or de Luneau-Papin 'Cuvee Medaillee' Muscadet Sevre et Maine and 2000 Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu.

Above, you can see the brigh gold color of these aged Muscadet, and they were oxidized to various degrees. They offered complex and intriguing flavors with dried fruits, apricot, honey, minerality, and even some herbal notes. These are wines to slowly savor, to let the melange of flavors slowly tantalize your palate. If these are representative of aged Muscadet, then wine lovers really need to taste these wines. They remind me in some ways of the aged whites of Lopez de Heredia.  And one of the best things about these wines is their cost, only about $25 each! That is a steal for an aged wine of this quality, and you can still find these wines of wine store shelves.  Of the three, the 1999 was my favorite, showcasing the best elements of young and aged Muscadet, as well as evidencing plenty of unique character.

The aged Muscadet were paired with Scituate Sea Scallops with Brown Butter-Oyster Sauce, Ricotta Gnocchi and Favas. The scallops were very fresh, having just been caught earlier that morning. This was a superb dish, with such tender scallops in a savory sauce and fluffy gnocchi. The Muscadet went very well with the scallops, able to cut through the creaminess of the sauce as well as complementing the seafood. Island Creek Bar has become one of the top seafood destinations in Boston.

I have now delved even deeper into the mysteries of Melon de Bourgogne, uncovering some evidence of the nature of aged Muscadet. That was an exciting discovery, especially considering how inexpensive you can purchase 10-15 year old Muscadet. They might not appeal to the general wine consumer, but wine geeks will be fascinated with these aged wines.  As I have said before, Melon de Bourgogne may be a relatively neutral grape, but winemakers can transform it into fascinating wines.

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1 comment:

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