The name of this grape is very misleading. The wine it produces has little to do with “Bourgogne” (the region of Burgundy it is named after) and doesn’t taste a bit like melons.
Instead you need to take yourself to the coastal region of Muscadet, in the cool climate Loire valley of France. And the style of wine is lean, bone dry, with zesty limes, herbal nuances and a strong saline bite. If you like French Picpoul or Sauvignon you might find this is an interesting alternative.
And it is one of those grapes that is due a renaissance. In the 1980s it was the height of fashion but then producers took advantage of that and made high volume wines that were pretty dull and watery. Soon consumers moved on, and now you would rarely see this grape on a list of a trendy wine bar. It is a shame because the best versions can have a lot of complexity and distinction.
For me the nicest version of Muscadet is”Sur Lie” this special treatment is when the wine is left on the “lees” or dead yeast cells for several months, to enhance the texture and add a toasty or yeasty richness to the wine. It doesn’t sound nice, but it really adds a dimension that gives the wine more character.
With the recent lack of interest in Muscadet around 50% of producers have sold up shop. And there have been several recent vintages ruined by hard frosts. So you have to raise your glass to the producers who are remaining able to carry on.
A hardy grape which can withstand frost which is why it is so suited to the cool climate vineyards of the Nantais. To be declared “sur lie” it has to spend one winter minimum on lees and be bottled at the earliest the following March. The wine was traditionally aged underground in glass coated tanks but now stainless steel tanks are more common. Its natural high acidity gives the greatest versions of this wine great ability to age and increase in their mineral complexity.
Picpoul Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, Hondarrabi Zuri
France: Loire (Nantais)
Clams, mussels, oysters, sushi, fish cakes, cheese fondue