Monday, January 29, 2007

A $15 Beauty from the Loire Valley

I remember about three years ago, in the summer time, my then girlfriend BrooklynLady and I were hanging out in her kitchen cooking together, talking about wine. She asked if I had ever tasted a Muscadet. No I had not, and what, do tell is Muscadet?

Muscadet (mus-ka-DAY) is a region in the western part of the Loire valley, near the city of Nantes. White wines from Muscadet are made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. They tend to be light in color and body, and are intensely mineral driven. They are thought to be a perfect compliment to raw oysters from the nearby coast. Muscadets are gleefully paired, though, with any fresh shellfish or other seafood. To me, the wines can sometimes exhibit a kind of a briny-ness, although that might be because of my first association with Muscadet - served very cold with a dozen raw Oysters on a date with BrooklynLady. YUM. And it was a good date.

There are a couple of appellations in Muscadet, the best of which is considered to be Muscadet de Sevre et Maine. And the best bottles from that appellation are aged sur-lie, or on the lees, the musty mix of yeasts and other post-fermentation solids (a technique that is also common in Champagne, if I am not mistaken). This aging provides flavor complexity that can be missing in other bottles. About a year ago, Eric Asimov's tasting panel featured Muscadets, and the overall assessment of the wines was quite good.

I have tasted many a Muscadet since then, and I enjoy them tremendously. Sure, their bracing acidity and citrusy freshness calls out for a hot summer afternoon. But there are no fresh oysters in the summer months (don't eat raw oysters in summer months without an "R" in their name - they are breeding then and too musky to be enjoyed). I find Muscadets to be excellent winter white wines, oddly enough. They just seem to go so well with so many foods, and their mineral dryness is so refreshing in cold weather.

Have you tried a Muscadet? If you haven't, don't feel bad. There is a reason that the region is not that famous - the wines are not all so good. Even those from Sevre et Maine, aged sur-lie, are not reliably good. Your local wine store might not even carry any Muscadets. Some places stock Muscadet but not from Sevre et Maine, and for some reason they keep the bottles upright (they are an odd shape anyway - tall) and in the sale bins, not screaming out "quality."

But if your wine store does stock good Muscadet, try one the next time you're cooking a simple seafood dish this winter. Better yet, try this one, an absolute beauty for under $15:

2005 Domaine de la Pepiere (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie Clos des Briords, $14.
Pale straw color. Reserved but pleasant nose of wet stones. Light and just slightly effervescent mouth feel, rainwater and citrus on the palate. Very nice, but the party really began on day two. Much more developed citrus and wet stone aromas, yeasty smell too. Surprising length on the palate with pronounced mineral, citrus oils, and some ripe green melon too. This wine clearly will take on all sorts of interesting aromas and flavors with age. Shall I make room in the cellar for a $15 beauty? I think I shall!


Anonymous said...

I think you are referring to this article when Eric Asmov discuss Muscadet.


Brooklynguy said...

Thanks so much Andrew, I appreciate the link and I added it to the post. How is it that your name, by the way, appears in the URL address for the Muscadet post?

Thanks again!

Marcus said...

Hey guys, don't make me call the linkage police!

Seriously, URLs to are bound to get a little weird since the site went subscriber on us. But no worries... that Wine of the Times topic so amazed me when it came out I made links to all the various goodies in this post. I hope that they continue to work for everyone. Personally I am seeing them in the NYT logged-in subscriber view.

Neil, that rocks you get the Marc Oliver supplied down there. That's one of the Asimov-reviewed bottles in the slideshow and I wish we got them in Quebec.

And as for that R months thing, I had heard about it but I never knew why. Those sexy musky oysters -- what puritans we must be to refuse them.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the link where my name is attached to the end of the URL when you paste it into your post.
Maybe it is because there is no carriage return seperating the URL and the line underneath it when I cut and paste the NYT URL here.

BTW: Chambers is currently selling Pépière 2005 Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie for $9.99

Got to buy one to try.

Anonymous said...

The store that I work at - Crush - is also freaky about Muscadet. We have Ollivier's Clos des Briords in magnum!! That's right, Muscadet can most definitely age. I went to a tasting recently that had a vertical going back to 1976. Insane. We currently have some 1995 Luneau-Papin which is fantastically delicate. Long live Muscadet.

Brooklynguy said...

No apology necessary Andrew - I was just curious. Sometimes I feel technologically slow compared with most people out here. And by the way, I went to Chambers yesterday to grab a few Briords for the cellar - ALL GONE already. They may have more in storage, they're checking. So instead I found my supply at Prospect Wine Shop in Brooklyn, same price, 15% off by the case (which I promptly purchased). Hi Sbitterolf - thanks for stopping by. Where is Crush - I heard I need to check you guys out. I liked the few bottles of Luneau-Papin I tried. Marcus - supposedly R month oysters just don't taste good. I have never tried and cannot say. I think of them as winter food though.

Anonymous said...

Crush is on 57th Street, btwn Lex and 3rd Ave. I don't want this to be some lame Crush advertisement, but we are freaks for Muscadet and you should definitely check out the 95 Lunea-Papin. As for Briords, we only have a few magnums left! Goodtimes! If you come in, ask for me, I'm here way too much. -Stephen

Brooklynguy said...

cool. how much are the magnums, by the way?

Anonymous said...

$31.99 - Though ask for me and I can probably cut you a special Brooklyn discount! Just for Muscadet research, Luneau-Papin's Excelsior 2002 is worth trying. A crazy cuvee they make with the wine aging 24 months (that's right) on the lees. It's insanely rich and creamy for a Muscadet, but still has the precision, balance and shrieking acidity that makes Muscadet, Muscadet.

Brooklynguy said...

i will definitely ask for you when i stop in. my father in law bought a few bottles from your shop tonight - a Roty Bourgogne and a 1993 Volnay. reminded me that I need to stop in and say hi myself. take care.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation for the Muscadet. It pair beautifully with our Chinese New Year Eve dinner.
My wife prepared braised sea cucumber, shark fin soup, stir fried lobster, braised sun dried oyster with mushroom and steam small mouth bass. This Muscadet, which I opened 24 prior, matched so well with every dish.
This wine, with the minerality and the citrus oil as you said, is a perfect match with a seafood themed Chinese dinner.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Andrew,
I am so proud to have contributed something to what sounds like an AMAZING feast to ring in the year of the Boar. I have never tasted sea cucumber or sun dried oysters. Sounds like your wife is quite a cook. Is there a restaurant you would recommend for me to try those and other dishes? Manhattan is fine but Sunset Park is better, if you know the places out there. Happy new year!