This month, Richard Hem­ming takes a look at the Melon de Bour­gogne grape va­ri­ety

Living France - - À La Maison -

You’ve prob­a­bly never heard of the grape va­ri­ety Melon de Bour­gogne, but I bet you’ve heard of its home­land: Mus­cadet.

This vine­yard re­gion of the Loire Val­ley to­wards the west coast of France has sup­plied easy-drink­ing, crisp white wines to the UK (and other mar­kets) for many years, but has re­cently been rein­vent­ing it­self in an at­tempt to im­prove qual­ity and in­ter­est.

As a grape va­ri­ety, Melon de Bour­gogne doesn’t ap­pear to have a great deal go­ing for it. The com­pre­hen­sive Wine Grapes book de­scribes it only as ‘neu­tral in flavour, with a touch of cit­rus’, which is hardly the most glow­ing re­port.

But the good news about ‘blank can­vas’ grapes such as Melon is that they can re­flect their ori­gin with crys­talline clar­ity. It’s the same with Ch­ablis, for ex­am­ple, where the oth­er­wise neu­tral Chardon­nay va­ri­ety be­comes com­plex thanks to the soils and wine­mak­ing tech­niques in­volved.

So it is with Mus­cadet. The gran­ite, clay and schist soils and cool At­lantic tem­per­a­tures give a saline crisp­ness to the style, as brac­ing as a te­quila slam­mer but without the boozi­ness – Mus­cadet never goes above 12.5% al­co­hol.

Mus­cadet’s other trump card is lees age­ing. This is when the wine is de­lib­er­ately rested on its yeast cells, typ­i­cally for about nine months, to give more body and tex­ture – look for ‘ sur lie’ on the la­bel.

Here are three ex­am­ples show­cas­ing Melon de Bour­gogne’s full po­ten­tial…

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