Week 15 – Melon de Bourgogne

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I guess there had to be a week. To date I’ve been able to wax lyrical about pretty much every wine we’ve tasted and often enjoyed the opportunity to revisit an old grape friend I’d forgotten.

I thought this grape would be the same, as it is one of those grapes that wine people say is due a revival. I’ve seen other French native grapes like Picpoul rise to the top of wine lists and wondered why Muscadet hasn’t been given the same nudge forward. After all, in its heyday it was almost as well known as Sauvignon Blanc, if you have parents who hung out in wine bars in the 1970s and 80s I’m sure they’ll confirm that. Maybe that is why it fell out of fashion, it became that drink “your parents like”.

I’ve also heard whispers that the demise of the Muscadet region was also due to lots of grape growers cashing in during its era of popularity and producing high yielding grapes with flavours close to water. That era is well over because nowadays Muscadet producers are more likely to be shutting up shop due to low consumer demand; especially after a long run terrible harvests which drove many of them out of business. So as the going says “only the strong survive” which should mean the remaining growers are going to be quality focused and passionate about continuing on their tradition.

Back to the wine. If you are a fan of wines with fruit that springs from the glass then be warned, this may not be for you. The aroma of Muscadet Sur lie is far from it; for me it is always the smell of a sea shore mixed with a herbal and flinty mineral tinge. And to taste if you are an avid seafood fan then you should be getting some of those familiar salty saline flavours with a light citrus bite; limey and slightly pithy. Oysters and Muscadet must be the perfect wine match for this reason. The “sur lie” bit is interesting. Lie or “lees” are the dead yeast cells that go through a process called “autolysis” when in long contact with wine. It creates the biscuity, nutty richness in Champagne and conveys a similar but more delicate flavour to Muscadet. It is also quite helpful to soften our the potential sharpness of a high acid, cool climate wine. Many white wines use “lees” for this reason, unoaked Chardonnay like a good Macon Villages has that roundness and texture for the same reason.

But I’m afraid my experience of Muscadet this time just didn’t float my boat. It made me think about how you reach out for a glass of something that suits your mood. And the night before I had bought a bottle of Macon because I wanted something with that smooth, soft peachy flavour which that gives me. I had my glass of Muscadet straight after that and it just seemed a little weak and lacking flavour as a result. Perhaps another night, a different mood and it would have been more interesting to me. After all I have tried some incredible aged Muscadet in the past that had made me remember it as more special wine.”

Andy says: “I sort of tasted this wine three times, and had three different opinions about it.

The first time was with dinner, and not with one of the recommended matches – a spicy five bean chilli. However, it seemed a perfect match to me. The wine was fruity, cool, crisp, cutting through the chilli with so much ease the glass didn’t last long at all.

The second glass, and therefore tasting, wasn’t far behind. But this time, as the chilli wore off and my palate neutralised, I liked it much less, finding it to be quite sour and limey.

The third tasting was a day or so later, and it was a similar experience. Initially I liked it when cool and out of the fridge, but I then forgot about it for about 20 mins. Tasting it slightly warmer and it was back to the sour limey version. So I guess the lesson here, for me at least, is that it how wine is served/consumed really does make a difference.”

Buying Guide

This week’s grape is more commonly known as Muscadet, which is a region in the Loire area of France. It has fallen out of fashion but is a lovely dry white. We are going to try a specific style called “Muscadet Sur Lie”. We’ll explain what that means later, but for now find the French white section and look for those words on the front label. It should be widely available.

12 thoughts to “Week 15 – Melon de Bourgogne”

  1. Some time ago I’d written a review on Zinfandel (which I couldn’t find in France, ended up finding in a Detroit layover, and discovered it was more like my mum’s strawberry jam than like red wine)(I like stawberry jam.) Then I lost the review in a dramatic copy-paste.

    I have less to say about Muscadet : it’s as bland as I remembered, and my co-taster agrees. I didn’t trust it so alleviated risk by going for a supposedly good bottle (after all, we were going to drink a bottle, not a glass). I can’t really comment on the taste as there isn’t much of it. A watery version of Chablis/chardonnay maybe ? No body/texture. It was better the following day – citrus etc. Maybe I’d been too predjudiced in my first tasting.

    Muscadet is mostly known here for the « Roger un muscadet » catchphrase, which is the standard phrase for the « petit blanc » morning drinker at the café counter. The best muscadet drinker will forever be Le Chat (sorry French pun in this one) : https://tinyurl.com/y93og6ct

    So I got to read some Le Chat cartoons for this review so I guess that’s one good thing for Muscadet. And I got to move on to Malbec which is always a pleasant prospect.

  2. Bog standard Muscadet 2017 Drouet Freres 11.5%

    Well this takes me back to the days of the wine bars. The default was Muscadet but, if budgets allowed, we moved up to Sancerre.

    So, it is like meeting an old friend and this one didn’t disappoint.

    Clean, bright and pale green in colour.

    On the nose there is a mixture of gooseberries and asparagus with appley hints. Very refreshing.

    The palate is clean, fresh and fruity. Do I get the flavours listed on the back label? No, but it gives a refreshing prickle in the mouth that reflects the gooseberry and apples, but not the asparagus.

    The finish is quite long with warm fruit flavours.

    Does it stand the test of time? Not really. The glugging white is now probably Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc; Muscadet takes us back to the days of Liebfraumilch and Niersteiner Gutes Domtal!

    But, with a light meal or relaxing in the sunshine, it is just fine.

  3. Wine – Les Grand Presbyteres, 2015 (£9 Mitchells Wine Merchants)
    Bottle says – white blossom, ripe citrus, yeasty lees

    Muscadet is one of my go-to ‘subtle’ whites, along with Macon-Lugny and a few others. These are wines I generally pair with lighter seafood dishes, but very rarely drink on their own, unless extremely chilled on a very hot day, when I’ve run out of rosé.

    This one has the usual pale colour you would expect. There is a lemony, salty, white pepper tang on the nose, accompanied by a slightly musty undertone. It has a buttery mouthfeel, with flavours of stone fruits and minerals, all very understated. The finish was very mineral and slightly herby.

    I personally like Muscadet, because of its subtlety, rather than despite it. It’s just an inexpensive, comforting wine, where you know what you’re getting.
    I know a lot of people who aren’t that keen; in fact one of the interesting things I’ve learned from 52 grapes is how many wines are so divisive.

    1. Hi Jason, Thanks for your note. And really pleased you are finding 52grapes interesting. I’m enjoying the experience for that reason too. At least that means that there is a good reason for having so many grapes and wines in this world!

  4. Another new grape for me (I think!). I tried the Muscadet Sevre et Main Sur Lie 2016 produced by Pierre Lieubeau (12%). It’s part of the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range and I picked it up for £7.50.

    I found it very pleasant. Restrained is the word for this wine, but in a good way. Clean and pale in appearance with a light, dry, gentle nose. The scent was of flowery pear and sea air. There was a mineral tinge (I see everyone mentioning flint), or was it a hint of grass?

    It was dry and light bodied to taste. The sea air theme continued with a saline taste and subtle lemons. No big flavours, but light and airy easy drinking. Quite a tart finish. I really liked it due to its fresh subtlety. I didn’t find much evidence of the lees though.

    I didn’t have oysters to hand… but it was wonderful with briny green olives. I will be drinking more Melon de Bourgogne.

  5. No longer a Muscadet virgin….I tasted Mescadet de Sevre et Maine Sur ale 2016, Domain de la Tourmaline. The first glass wasn’t quite chilled enough and tasted flat, lacking any real taste…..I chilled down the bottle and the second glass accompanied my Indian curry – the two went quite well together, a little minerality coming through. Apart from that I can’t really say much about it. It was ok, but so far I’ve preferred the white wines with bolder flavours. All in all not a bad white. Might try with scallops

  6. Hi Emma. I have a random question for you…Now I know that you wouldn’t make a rosé by mixing red and white together 😉 but would a winemaker ever blend red and white grapes together?

    1. Hi Jody,

      Great question. Viognier is probably the anomaly here. The classic Rhone reds from the North of the region are made from Syrah but by tradition they would also add in a dash of Viognier to give it a pleasing perfume. Many Australian Shiraz blends to the same. I have seen a few other regions use aromatic white grapes in the same way for other red wines but it is very rare and they typically don’t mention it on the label.

      Hope that answers your question.


  7. I tried Domaine de la Pepiere 2016 Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie, from my local independant wine shop. Very restrained aroma. Certainly crisp and clean and citrus, to the point of lean. I did my usual trick of re-tasting one day later and I certainly noted a fuller mid palate although the only adjective I can come up with is “neutral”. The wine was more drinkable the second day to my taste. I can certainly see it would match well with seafood, especially oysters. I suspect I haven’t done the wine justice somehow, but I share Emma’s feeling of being nonplussed.

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