Crus control: Muscadet

“It’s becoming even more interesting in Muscadet,” thinks Marie Luneau of Domaine Luneau-Papin.

“The crus communaux are exciting and it’s good for the wines’ quality.”

One way of differentiating the new cru wines from their Nantais siblings is to put them in different bottles – Burgundian shapes being the most popular.

Luneau explains: “Burgundy bottles give a different impression. In traditional Muscadet bottles people think the wines are younger and for drinking with oysters – which the cru wines are not.”

oystersPAIRING WITH FOOD

The link to seafood is both advantageous and something to be challenged. Muscadet does pair very well with seafood and it is no surprise to hear that the Eastern Seaboard of the US with its celebrated molluscs and crustaceans is one of the largest export markets for Muscadet.

Nonetheless, when it comes to the cru wines, and the others, a different pairing is possible. Indeed the added complexity of 18 months or even five or more years on the lees means that cru Muscadet is also capable of pairing with the likes of cheese and white meats. Older traditional Muscadets are also equally capable of matching cheese, even foie gras if one is feeling adventurous, but, again, mistakenly, Muscadet is not seen as age-worthy.

Although each commune will impose slightly different rules when it comes to sur lie ageing times and yields (which are largely a maximum of 45 tonnes/ha compared to the generic Muscadet’s 65 tonnes/ha), the common thread in all talks about the vineyards is soil.

Namely, how different the soils are between the crus with some, such as Château Thébaud, sitting on granite and others on gneiss and gabbro (Le Pallet for example).

Bruno Cormerais of the eponymous domaine, makes an interesting analogy with Beaujolais – another region breaking free from former misconceptions.

“The emergence of the crus is like the rebirth of Beaujolais,” he suggests. “And, like Beaujolais, Muscadet was generally viewed as being good quality but quite simple.”

Melon de Bourgogne Grapes

Melon de Bourgogne Grapes

Like Gamay this will be because of the grape, Melon de Bourgogne. A 17th century import (the Nantais actually grew quite a lot of red before), it had been largely dismissed in its native province and wasn’t treated much better in its new home. Seen as a forward, easy-drinking wine, it was not deemed capable of more, but this, as Cormerais continues, is another mistake.

“Muscadet is the opposite of Sauvignon Blanc,” he says. “It takes time for the wine to take on its flavours. Sauvignon just explodes with flavour very early on.”

The crus, for all the excitement and interest they generate, are not the holy grail. However, the crus do represent a desire to change and a renewed technical ability and drive for quality that was hitherto perhaps too deeply hidden from the public gaze.

As Lieubeau concludes, “With the crus we are entering a new period.”

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