WINE O’CLOCK: The grape that got banished by royal command
FRANCHE Comté is a region of Burgundy close to the border with Switzerland. For centuries, control swung between France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.
Philip II of Spain was the man in charge back in the mid-sixteenth century and he took a strong exception to the Pinot Blanc style of grape from which they made white wine.
Legend has it he took a few sips, spat out the wine and banished the grape, ordering that it should never again be cultivated in his territories.
Burgundy’s loss was a gain for the Loire valley. Growers took the Melon de Bourgogne grape across the country, to a region near Nantes, and began producing the wine we now know as Muscadet.
It’s a good story. It might even be true, although I’d advise against quoting from it for the Leaving Cert.
What is true is that Muscadet is the key appelation of the Pays Nantais, the 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.
This dry white, with a citrus tang, has a reputation for being good with fish which, indeed, it is – especially shell fish. 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. Calvet Muscadet is one of the most popular and you’ll find it in many supermarkets for a tenner or less.
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. But it is still not expensive.
Aldi’s Exquisite Collection Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie is very good value at €8.99.
You might also like Foucher Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (SuperValu €10.99) and Domaine la Chauvinière Muscadet de Sèvre (O’Briens €11.95).