Dutch traders introduced the Melon grape to the region from Burgundy in the 1600s. They wanted grapes for distilling, and the city of Nantes was within ready reach of their boats. An extreme winter in 1709 wiped out the red varieties then locally grown and thereafter Melon came to rule the region. Today, there are four appellations in Muscadet, and Muscadet Sèvre et Maine AC is the best and by far the largest (this AC produces more wine than any other in the Loire Valley). Most of its wine is, unfortunately, forgettable. The fact is there are wines of revelation made here, wines that are soft yet shockingly vigorous, imbued with scents of bread, lemon freshness, and sea salt minerality—a palette of aromas that in the better renditions follows through in the mouth with intensity and length. Melon de Bourgogne is a white cousin to Gamay, and like Gamay it can be easy, it can be delicious, and it can surprise. The best Muscadets are some of the world’s best white wine values. Among the small cadre of committed growers—and it is a small cadre—Claude Branger ranks among the top. His domaine of La Haute Févrie is in Madison, and he is a member of Terra Vitis, an organization that sets guidelines for sustainable farming and monitors its members’ practices to ensure quality control. Claude prunes for low yields, harvests by hand (a rarity in this land of machine harvesting), and lets his wine rest on its lees until bottling, which is done without fining and with a light filtration—the classic sur lie technique. It’s this technique that gives good Muscadet its freshness and lift. Contrary to popular opinion, Muscadet is not, if allowed to ripen properly, naturally high in acid; it’s the lees contact and the resulting CO2 gas that give the wine its crisp spice and zest. View all Domaine Claude Branger Wines
About LoireView a map of Loire wineries Chenin Blanc, Muscadet and Sauvignon Blanc. For reds, Cabernet Franc takes center stage but the region also has plantings of Pinot Noir and Gamay. The AC of Cremant de Loire is popular – these are the sparkling wines of the Loire, usually made with Chenin Blanc.
Notable FactsAs for which grapes you find in which regions… Starting on the Atlantic Coast and moving east - Muscadet hails from the region of the same name, within the larger Nantes district, right on the Atlantic coast. The wines are dry, citrusy and pleasant, but rarely powerful or intensely aromatic. Just inland from Nantes is Anjou-Samur, home to Savennières, an excellent source of dry Chenin Blanc. To the east is Touraine, where you'll find the popular white region of Vouvray - Chenin Blanc shines in Vouvray, which can be dry, off-dry or sweet – the majority of those found in the states are a lovely and food-friendly off-dry. In the same district, Cabernet Franc makes delicious, delicate and elegant reds from Bourguil and Chinon. Finally, in the Upper Loire area, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé turn out Sauvignon Blancs of razor sharp acidity and minerality.
About France - Other regionsWhen it comes to wine, France is a classic. Classic blends, grapes and styles began in the country and they still remain. Think about it - people ask for a Burgundian style Pinot Noir, they refer to wines as Bordeaux or Rhone blends - Champagne even had to pass a law to stop international wineries from putting their region on the label of all sparkling wine.
The top regions of France are: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, Rhone. And these regions are so diverse! It makes sense that wine regions throughout the world try to emulate their style. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are no longer French varieties, but international varieties. They may not be the leader of cutting edge technology or value-priced wines, but there is no doubt that they are still producing wines of great quality and diversity.