Often overlooked on the supermarket shelves, and often confused with Muscat, this dry white wine from the Loire Valley is excellent with food. You just need to know what to look for

I’m at Noize restaurant at the back of Goodge Street, an area that seems like a backwater kind of place. No shops, no nothing really, just this well-spoken-of French restaurant.

Upstairs it’s a welcome sight; a packed house reverberating to happy conversation. These people obviously didn’t get the memo from HR advising everyone to stay firmly at their desks at lunchtime if they didn’t want trouble. Maybe the HR reign of terror is finally over?

Downstairs the table is laid for our Muscadet lunch in the company of Tamlyn Currin

If you don’t know much about Muscadet, join the club. I was in the dark too. I did know it was made from Melon de Bourgogne grapes. Only Muscadet is made with this grape which is why the grape is often called Muscadet, rather than Melon de B. In the early 1980s it was sent to the USA where it was at first mistakenly called Pinot Blanc

In fact America is pretty much the only place outside the Loire Valley where this grape is grown. To be precise, the western end of the Loire Valley near Nantes. Some people, Tamlyn tells us, believe that the grapes get some salinity from the Atlantic breezes, but she is not convinced.

Melon de B is a fairly neutral grape, it’s been suggested that the Dutch introduced it in the 17th Century because a neutral grape is ideal for making brandewijn, or brandy. Others say King Louis XIV ordered its planting to replace the local vines that had been largely wiped out in the Big Freeze, a very cold winter in Europe in 1708–1709, the coldest European winter for 500 years. No one was able to blame fossil fuels back then, though, just God and nature.

The grape grew well there, but was not regarded as anything special. Its main attraction for growers was that it was able to tough out late cold spring cold spells and mature before winter came back. Useful attributes in case history repeated itself. It did need work to make it worth any serious wine drinker’s time, though.

Those of us that remember the 1980s and 1990s as times of terrible fashion, were probably too busy partying to notice that at the same time, over in the Loire, forward-looking winemakers were concentrating on trying to make Muscadet more interesting.

They began ageing it in oak barrels, and also leaving it on its lees (the grape skins) for longer before fermentation. These experiments allowed different wine makers to create their own styles of Muscadet.

We drink some ‘Domaine de la Tormaline’ with some rich cheese gougeres. A blend of 50 plots from ground that is hard to cultivate, it only produces 85k bottles a year. A lovely pale yellow bordering on green, its subtle hint of acidity and slight spritz cuts pleasantly into the cheese.

Another wine, matched with ‘mackerel on toast’ is Domaine de la Bretonnerie Clisson. This region delivers intense and complex wines and the wine is warm with all kinds of fruit flavours. The terroir is largely granite and this gives a flinty edge

Muscadets from the Gorges, the oldest of the crus communaux, have a long finish, quite lemony and flinty, they need long maturing 24-40 months to bring out their best.

We drink two ‘Gorges’ examples, a 2016 Vignoble Barreau Gorges and Château de Coing Gorges with cured sea bass and poached rhubarb with citrus dressing, the wines perfectly matching the tannic bite of the rhubarb.

To end, a 2018 Muscadet Sevre et Maine Philippe Guerin Vallet with cheese, a sweetish wine but not cloying and with complexities the cheese brought out admirably.

I leave well fed and better educated. Muscadet is a white wine I shall be looking out for now a lot more, but probably not the supermarket and only the producers sampled.


2022 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Domaine de la Tourmaline – £10.99, Majestic

2018  Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Domaine Chéreau Carré Clisson – £tbc, The Wine Society

2017 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Domaine de la Bretonnière – £16.99, Soho Wine

2016 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Vignoble Barreau Gorges – £29.70, Alko (2015)

2013 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Château du Coing Gorges – £18.70, Gauntleys

2018 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Jean Aubron Vallet – Not available in the UK

2018 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Philippe Guérin – £19.99, Harrogate Wines