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Domaine de la Fruitiere Muscadet Gneiss de Bel Abord 2013
Granite rock was used for centuries to build the massive fortresses that dot the landscape of Muscadet. Its density and structure were rarely breached by arrow, cannonball, or the good ‘ole medieval siege. Because of its density and the fact that it is everywhere in Muscadet, its unclear why anyone would think that this was the place to plant hectares and hectares of vines. That’s what riverbeds are for, right?
Well, the Romans might have gotten a few things wrong in France (see the 1st century BC through the 5th century AD for reference) but they did get something right: they planted a ton of grapevines on this lunar rock of a landscape. Today, this area is called Muscadet and is home to over 8,000 hectares of vines of Melon de Bourgogne.
Domaine de la Fruitière farms over 40 hectares of this and produces both Muscadet Sèvre et Maine as well as Vin de Pays from grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Regardless of the varietal, the vines are planted on rock, and in most cases, sheer cliffs of rock through which the roots have to bury for meters for any hydric source. The vines, and the wines, are fed by water that is awash in wet rock. It’s not a big shock that the wines smell and taste more like rock and minerals than fruit or flowers. Combine this with the cold Atlantic breezes and you’ve got an amazing cool climate, high cut, precise bottle of white wine.
The Pays Nantais, Loire’s only region abutting the Atlantic coast, is solely focused on the Melon de Bourgogne grape in its handful of subzones: Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire and Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu. Muscadet wines are dry, crisp, seaside whites made from ideal for the local seafood-focused cuisine. (They are not related to Muscat.) There is a new shift in the region to make these wines with extended lees contact, creating fleshy and more aromatic versions.
Made famous in Muscadet, a gently rolling, Atlantic-dominated countryside on the eastern edge of the Loire, Melon de Bourgogne is actually the most planted grape variety in the Loire Valley. But the best of it comes from Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, a subzone to the west of the city of Nantes and part of the larger Muscadet region.
The name might suggest this grape is from Burgundy—and indeed its origins are Burgundian. But while history shows it is the progeny of Pinot and Gouais Blanc, it was continually outlawed from Burgundy, just like Gamay, at various times during the 16th & 17th centuries.
In the Glass
Muscadet wine is full of fresh acidity and has smoky and saline aromas with some floral character; flavors are of green pear, lemon and honeysuckle. Since the mid 1980s, winemakers have been successfully experimenting with various winemaking techniques including barrel fermentation, lees stirring and pre-fermentation skin contact to make a more complex wine.
Try Muscadet with any light and flaky fish, oysters, roasted chicken, root vegetables and fondue.
The wine itself is called Muscadet, and while suggestive of “muscat,” the wine is not related to any muscat variety.