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The Melon Grape


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About Melon

(Synonyms: Gamay Blanc, Latran, Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadet, Petit Bourgogne, Plant de Bourgogne)

Background

Map showing Nantes, home of Muscadet wines

Melonl is a white-wine grape originating, as its name suggests, in the Burgundy region of France. The grape name is not well known, but the wine made from it, Muscadet (always 100% Melon), is famous. Some Melon is grown in the U.S., chiefly in Oregon but now also in Washington State; such wines must be labelled by the grape name: “Muscadet” cannot be used of wines not made in that appellation. (The few American-made wines from this grape are often labelled “Melon de Bourgogne”.)

There was a mini-scandal a few years back when it turned out that a lot of grapes being grown in the Pacific Northwest as Pinot Blanc turned out to actually be Melon. Nowadays, the varietal labelling can be assumed to be accurate.

The Muscadet appellation is located at the western end of the Loire Valley wine area, and is centered on the town of Nantes, near the Atlantic coast. Within the appellation are three sub-appellations: Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine (whence about four in five Muscadets); Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire; and the relatively recent (1994) Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu. Wines labelled simply “Muscadet” without one of those three sub-appellation tags are normally the most elementary specimens (and are forbidden by law from sur lie treatment—that is, from the lees contact that defines better bottlings). Differences between Muscadet wines from those regions exist, but are typically not dramatic.

Melon is considered a relatively bland and simple grape, and Muscadet was slowly sinking toward obvivion till the later twentieth century, when new techniques, such as extended lees contact (now a hallmark of better Muscadets, with the contact time a minimum specified by law), maceration, and even some oak aging came into play. There is today quite a spectrum of styles and quality (and price) for Muscadet wines.

Muscadets made sur lie, which is virtually all of the better ones, are normally marked by a subtle richness and greater fullness of body. Nowadays, some vintners accent that quality by stirring the wine as it rests on the lees, resulting in even greater contact. Muscadet is also the only wine that, by French law, cannot exceed 12% alcohol (the only such maximum specified in those laws).

Muscadet is ideally a very dry, sharp, acidic wine, thus quite “crisp”, and tasting strongly of minerality much more than of fruit (some even claim to detect a subtle “salty” quality, which is considered desireable); it is typically a light-bodied wine. It is often remarked that its best and highest use is as accompaniment to seafood, notably oysters, owing to that acid crispness, but it will in fact go well with any rich dish, especially creamy ones. It is a wine normally drunk while quite young, three years from bottling being about the limit for most. A few better specimens, however, can be aged up to a decade or so, presumably with some improvement but certainly with no loss.

One of the first things one notices about Muscadets is that most of the well-known makers produce quite a number of variant bottlings, often half a dozen each vintner, and often not drastically different in price within the same line; it is thus not a matter of saying get so-and-so’s X-dollars bottling. The reason for those various bottlings is to capture single-vineyard terroir, so it isn’t a matter of X being “better than” Y.

(When last we looked, Domaine de la Pépière had 7 Muscadet bottlings, Domaine De La Louvetrie had 8, and Domaine de l’Écu had 5, those three houses being the big guns of Muscadet.)

Factoid: Melon was introduced to the Pays Nantais region in the 17th century by Dutch traders looking for a sufficient source of neutral white wines that could be distilled into “brandewijn” (brandy).

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Some Descriptions of Melon Wines

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Some Melons to Try

(About this list.)

Remember that many Muscadet makers each produce a number of bottlings, often not very different in price, each bottling purporting to convey a somewhat different terroir. So don’t just look for a “Brand A” Muscadet—try to sample each maker’s line, or as much of it as is reasonably available and affordable.


Domaine de l’Ecu “Granite” Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Domaine de la Pépière “Clos des Briords” Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie
(This is their “basic” Muscadet.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin “Clos des Allées Vieilles Vignes” Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Domaine de la Pépière “Les Gras Moutons” Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

We found no Muscadets enough better than those listed above as to justify a “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Monday, 23 March 2020, at 3:52 pm Pacific Time.