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What is Muscadet?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Muscadet is a French white wine of the Loire Valley region. Made of the Melon de Bourgogne grape, it is produced more than any other Loire Valley wine. Unlike most French wines, Muscadet does not take its name from the region in which it is produced, or the grape variety it is made from. The name most likely refers to a musky or Muscat-grape flavor.

The Melon de Bourgogne grape has been grown in the Loire Valley since at least the 17th century. It is grown in the far west of the region, near the town of Nantes. This region is cooler than other areas of the Loire Valley, and sees more precipitation because of the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. The soil is sandy and rocky, including schist, volcanic rock, and granite. The soil is also rich in potassium and magnesium.

Frost and mildew are the greatest threats to grape vines in the far western Loire Valley, but Melon de Bourgogne is relatively resistant to frost, and ripens early. The grapes are usually harvested in late September. There has been a recent trend to harvest the grapes a few days or weeks later to produce a sweeter, less acidic wine.

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Melon de Bourgogne has a fairly neutral flavor, so winemaking techniques are used to produce a more complex beverage. One of the most common is to age the wine while exposed to the lees, or the dead cells of yeast left behind as a byproduct of fermentation. Wines that spend at least one full winter exposed to the lees, and are not bottled until the third week of March, include the designation sur lie on the bottle.

Muscadet wines are typically dry, light, and refreshing, often with a slight effervescence caused by carbon dioxide from the bottling process. Those aged over the lees may have a slight yeast flavor. The wine is required by French law to have no more than 12% alcohol by volume (ABV). It is typically served with seafood, especially oysters, lobster, and shrimp. While some Muscadets can be aged for up to ten years, most should be enjoyed no more than three years after bottling.

There are three sub-appellations of Muscadet, named after the specific region of each wine. Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, which produces 80% of Muscadet wines, and Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire were both established in 1936. Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu was established in 1994.

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