WINE O’CLOCK: A drink for the dry season
Full of fruit … bursting with fruity flavour. Those are descriptions of wine you will often see quoted by way of a compliment.
Not by me. I dislike those big reds with more blackcurrant than Ribena. Whites “bursting with flavour” of peach or pear are nearly as bad. If I want to drink fruit juice, I’ll buy fruit juice and save money.
Muscadet is the perfect white antidote to all this sweetness. It is bone dry and, although it does have a distinct citrus tang, when I search for adjectives it is not fruits that come to mind. Crisp, certainly; creamy, probably; smoky, possibly; fruity, never. It is also relatively low in alcohol, rarely going much above 12%.
Muscadet is the key appellation of the Pays Nantais, a district of the western Loire Valley around Nantes, on the central western coast of France. The name covers only white wines made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape.
Muscadet has a reputation for being good with fish which, indeed, it is – especially shellfish. It is also a very nice wine for sipping just by itself.
It was quite popular in Ireland a decade or more ago but seems to have been pushed off the shelves by fruitier Picpoul and Pouilly-Fumé.
Nowadays, you won’t find a lot of Muscadet in the supermarkets but what they do have tends to be good. And it is not expensive. Dunnes, for instance, have a really nice Calvet Muscadet for around €12 (the price is changed regularly).
The best Muscadet carries the description Muscadet Sevre et Maine and the very best adds the words, Sur Lie. You will generally pay a bit more for this.
Muscadet is not the name of a grape, but, for obvious reasons, the wines sometimes get confused with those from the Muscat grape, going under such names as Moscato and Moscatel. Muscat is used in the making of a wide range of wines, from dry whites to sweet dessert wines, and you will even find it in some Sherries.
Muscadet Sevre et Maine Domaine du Moulin Camus, The Wicklow Wine Company, €15.95
A very good example of Sevre et Maine. Dry with a soft texture and gentle citrus flavour. Excellent with seafood.
Enseduna Muscat, Worldwide Wines Waterford, €13.95
The Muscat grape is used in the making of wine in many countries, including Greece, Italy and Australia. This one is from the south of France and uses a variety of the grape called Muscat Petits Grains. The blend is a dry white and makes a nice aperitif.
Quinta da Lixa Vino Verde, O’Briens €12.95
I’m including this one in the listing because O’Briens says it is “Muscadet style”. It’s a Portuguese Vinho Verde. It goes well with seafood and is good value.