Let’s imagine that it is New Year’s Eve, and you want to find the perfect wine to pair with a first course of fresh briny oysters. Or maybe you are vacationing in a chic French island like St. Barts, and just bought a freshly-caught snapper from a sleek, tanned fisherman in Prada swim trunks who had moments before cast his net into the emerald sea. What would be the idea wine to accompany the dish?
Perhaps your first thought is Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc – both very appropriate pairings. Yet have you considered Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine? The Muscadet grape (also known as Melon de Bourgogne) comes from a region of France in the Loire Valley, at the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean. The most popular style of Muscadet from this region is Muscadet Sur Lie, which means the wine is “aged” on its lees which gives the wine its yeasty, biscuit-like aroma and fuller body.
Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine is not typically stocked on supermarket shelves, where mainstream-centered supermarket buyers rely on oaked California Chardonnays with their popular aromas of spiced apple pie, or New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs with their refreshing, signature aromatic citrus and mineral notes. In contrast to those two popular varietals, Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine is difficult to pronounce and may take more than a few sips to understand and appreciate.
Yet once a novice Muscadet taster gets past the unfamiliarity of the flavor profile, pleasure awaits. Typically a Muscadet nose is neither pungent or shy, with an aroma that hints at sea breeze and citrus. On the palate, one will usually find a substantial medium body with racy acidity and depending on the winery and vintage, a good concentration of fruit with tart citrus notes.
Of course, white-fleshed fish and seafood is a natural pairing. Yet also consider Muscadet for upscale treats such as caviar, sushi, and sashimi, or serve this crisp, refreshing wine as an aperitif or a light wine to accompany luncheon fare or omelets for a Sunday brunch. Appropriate cheese pairings include goat cheese, both soft and creamy or hard and aged, depending on the flavor profile of the particular wine.
Right now I’m sipping 2007 Domaine de la Batardière Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, a textbook Muscadet Sevre et Main with an aroma of zesty ocean spray, lemon pith, and wet sand, which echoes on the palate. You will find a substantial body and excellent balance between fruit and acidity, with lots of mineral notes from the rich soil. I would pair this particular wine with a hard goat cheese, perhaps with crackers liberally sprinkled with a great deal of black pepper. Or maybe I’d serve the wine with caviar. This particular wine is just under ten dollars, so you will have extra money to splurge.