WHAT TO DRINK...
This month, Richard Hemming takes a look at the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety
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…