When it hits wine o’clock in our household it’s usually still light out, and that means we’re pouring a crisp, vibrant white. The one we’ve been finding in our glass lately is Muscadet. It’s a somewhat mysterious wine for several reasons, which is probably why I’m partial to it.
From the western end of the Loire Valley in France, Muscadet is neither the name of the grape nor the place from which it originates. It is actually made from the Melon Bourgogne grape, which is a sibling to Chardonnay. Yet, that is not a relationship I would have guessed.
And, the meaning behind the Muscadet name doesn’t seem to jive with the flavor profile of the wine. Musc literally translates to musk in French, and muscade translates to nutmeg. So, putting that together, a musky nutmeg is not exactly how I would describe this wine.
Muscadet is a bone-dry, lively, and light bodied white (do not confuse this wine with Muscat or Moscato, which are sweet wines). It can even take on somewhat of a salty character given its close proximity to the Atlantic. That explains why I love this wine with a dozen oysters on the half shell!
I particularly like Muscadet that is aged Sur Lie, which means the wine sits on dead yeast cells after fermentation. This can lend to more body and structure in the wine and also add a creaminess factor. Muscadet that has been aged in this manner will indicate Sur Lie on the label.
The Chateau Du Jaunay, available for about $13 at Total Wine, is one of our current go-to whites. It is aged Sur Lie and comes from the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation, which is the largest and most important region for high quality Muscadet.
It has a beautiful pale straw color with lemon zest on the nose. Because of the sur lie aging, it also is slightly creamy on the palate. Drink this one alone, with white cheeses—think gruyere and parmesan—or with shellfish.