The Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine area covers 23 municipalities to the southeast of Nantes, in the north-western corner of France, and is named for the wine grapes that thrive there – Muscadet – and the two rivers that cross it – the Petite Maine and the Sèvre Nantaise.
Far better known in Europe than in North America, the wine grape Muscadet – also known as Melon de Bourgogne – makes a lean white wine that pairs perfectly with oysters. But even in the UK, the fame of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine has faded.
As wine and food writer Fiona Beckett mused in The Guardian last summer “Muscadet has now more or less vanished from our radar, replaced in our affections by fruitier picpoul and sexy-sounding albariño. I guess it dates me a bit, but muscadet was one of the first serious wines I ever came into contact with.”
As well as being refreshingly crisp, these whites are remarkably age-worthy when they are raised on their lees – the yeast residues left over from fermentation – earning the “Sur Lie” label. They spend the winter following the harvest in vats or barrels, on their lees, without being transferred or racked. This is how they acquire their characteristic richness, weight and complexity.
Recently released by Muscadet specialists Château du Coing, from vines that average 65 years old, a quartet of similar but variously different wines gives wine lovers a rare opportunity to explore this classic white wine’s styles.
Chalky soil gives Château du Coing Les Vergers Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2014 (174615) $15.20 its structured, almost woodsy minerality. A light spritz on the palate leads to flavours of lemon and fresh-sliced pear in an elegant balance between mineral character and floral freshness.
The owner and winemaker of Château du Coing is Véronique Günther-Chéreau, whose family has been making wine at Saint Fiacre since 1421. Véronique has over 65 hectares of vines which lie at the meeting point of the Sèvre and Maine rivers.
Only stainless steel was used to ferment and age Château du Coing de St Fiacre 2014 (174631) $18.20 but it qualifies as Muscadet ‘sur lie’ due to six months aging on its fine lees after the fermentation. A delicate, pale lemon colour with light floral aromas of casaba melon, pear and lightly toasted bread. The palate is juicy with pure, bright citrus fruit character and a long, finely textured finish.
Unusually for négociant-dominated Muscadet, Château du Coing is family run and uses solely estate grown fruit. The house style is always ‘sur lie’ with at least six months’ ageing on the yeast lees to ensure more body and complexity than the average Muscadet on the market.
With its fine concentration and light acidity Château du Coing de Saint-Fiacre 2008 Sur Lie Melon de Bourgogne (929349) $22.95 veers from initial lemon squeezed citricity through green apple fruit, some nutty almond notes and a sprinkling of grapefruit in the finish. Amazingly fresh for a seven year old white wine and completely ready to drink.
The actual Château du Coing de Saint Fiacre is located at the confluence of the Sèvre and the Maine. The vineyard is south facing on 30° slopes along the Maine. It is an historical property dating to the Middle Ages, destroyed during the Wars of the Vendée – the counter revolutionary insurrections in the west of France from 1793 through 1796 – and rebuilt from 1810 to 1820.
Château du Coing de Saint Fiacre Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Comte de St. Hubert 2008 (929356) $31.60 is fully mature, and still astonishingly bright. This rare white has a rich nose, fleshy notes of white stone fruit, stewed citrus fruits and subtle hints of marzipan and wild flowers. Full and intense mouth, very powerful, large and dense spicy character that leads the citric attack in the finish. The wine finishes remarkably full bodied, with persistent notes of lemon rind.
Take advantage of this rare opportunity and invite a few close wine loving friends to join you in a comparative tasting of all four of these wonderful white wines. And don’t forget the oysters, clams or honey mussels…
Local North Island wine lovers should mark off November 20th on their calendars. That’s the upcoming date of the 14th Annual North Island College (NIC) Tourism and Hospitality students’ ‘Third Course Bistro’ Wine Festival.
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