For the past three years, the release of the latest vintage of Muscadet Sur Lie -- a crisp white wine from France's Loire Valley -- has been celebrated with a traveling festival in Europe.
This summer, the event comes to North America for the first time, stopping in New Orleans, New York and Montreal. Wine Spectator Online's Dana Nigro and Tammy Deckman were on hand at New York's South Street Seaport for the arrival of the wine, along with tastings and a day of Impressionist-era festivities. Read on for an introduction to Muscadet, an often good-value wine that can make a perfect counterpoint to the heat of summer.
The Notre Dame des Flots, a period sailing ship, arrives in New York with barrels of 1998 Muscadet Sur Lie after a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean from the French port of Nantes. Muscadet, grown in the vineyards of the Loire Valley, was brought there in the 1600s by monks traveling from Burgundy. The vines, which were not well suited to the Burgundian terroir, flourished in the area around Nantes, with its low altitude and ocean climate. The prolific Muscadet grape, also known as Melon de Bourgogne (because of its very round leaves), yields white wines with crisp, clean flavors of grapefruit, minerals and herbs.
The Muscadet appellation is named after the grape, rather than a town or other geographical area, as is the case with most French wines. Located in the southern part of the Loire Valley, around Nantes, Muscadet consists of more than 32,000 acres of vineyards and produces an average of 17.2 million gallons of wine a year. The broad Muscadet appellation contains three regional appellations. Muscadet Sevre et Maine, which is named after two rivers in the area, produces wines with floral aromas. The wines of Muscadet Coteaux de Loire tend to be fuller in body and have a mineral character and a long finish. The newest appellation, Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu, yields softer, refreshing wines.
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