When friends brought oysters from Long Island’s Peconic Bay as an appetizer the other night, I knew I had the perfect wine: a Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley.
Muscadet (not to be confused with the sweet Muscat grape) is the name of the dry white wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. As the name suggests, its origins were in Burgundy, but its home has long been the Muscadet region of the western Loire, not far from the Atlantic Ocean.
And its proximity to the sea is part of what gives it its superb ability to pair with shellfish and simply prepared fish dishes. It’s often noted that Muscadet can have a slightly saline or briny quality, which is clearly a function of where the region lies.
I found this quality, and a whole lot more, in Domaine du Haut Bourg’s excellent 2018 Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu, a real bargain at just $12 or so.
While the largest and most famous Muscadet appellation is Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu is one of three others and, as Domaine du Haut Bourg shows us, it can also produce distinctive wines.
This is a light and refreshing wine, as Muscadet usually is, with typical alcohol of 12 percent. Stone fruit, minerals, and orange-lime (plus that saline note) combine in this classic Muscadet with good complexity and a long, slightly creamy finish.
The length and complexity are achieved, in part, by “sur lie” aging, which you’ll see on the labels of better Muscadets and refers to aging on the lees, the solid remnants of the grapes and yeast after fermentation.
Muscadet is almost never aged in oak, but in stainless steel tanks, which gives it that wonderful freshness that goes so well with just-opened oysters.
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