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Rose Murray Brown: Revisiting the neglected muscadet

Rose Murray Brown goes back to the future with marvellous muscadets

Published: October 5, 2015
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It’s time to revisit a wine we drank in copious quantities in the late 1970s and 1980s – then shunned in the 1990s. Muscadet is in need of a re-evaluation by serious wine lovers, as this neglected Loire Valley appellation can offer superb value and great quality, and it had one of its best vintages in decades in 2014.

Imagine a white wine with a crystalline brightness of fruit, vibrant minerality, stone fruit flavours, moderate alcohol and a real sense of “terroir” – all of this at less than £12 a bottle. That is what you get in the best muscadet, but you need to know where to look.
The taste of muscadet really can encapsulate its climate and region.

The sea breezes sweeping on to the Nantais coast nearby from the Atlantic – the Loire wine region’s most westerly point – give the wines that vibrant freshness and almost salty briny flavours.
Perched so close to the Atlantic, it is at the mercy of the weather. Severe frosts can wipe out whole vintages, as in 2008. But producers have just had what they call their dream vintage. So shelves will be stocked with ripe, fruity, balanced wines, but still with that wonderful natural acidity, making it the ideal seafood match.

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The best estates in the Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine area between Vallet, Haute Goulaine and Clisson have parcels of vines on different terroirs harvested separately to show different characteristics. Domaine La Haut Fevrie on the hills overlooking Sèvre have a good example of this with their Les Gras Moutons, Le Clos Fevrie, Le Clos de Pegatine and so on. The other distinction is “sur lie”. About two-thirds of muscadet is made in this way. It must spend the winter following the harvest in vats or barrels on its “lees” (the dead yeasts which converted the sugar to alcohol during fermentation) without racking or transferring. This deepens the texture and flavours.

Our tasting concentrated on the appellation named Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine. This is where 85 per cent of the vineyards are based.

Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Tourmaline 2014
Alcohol 12 per cent
A very light style. Our tasters found it a bit dull and neutral on the palate and short on the finish in comparison to others in the tasting.
£6.74 until 26 October,
Majestic Wine

Chateau du Cleray Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2014
Alcohol 12 per cent
More depth of fruit and concentration here, but still with a good, racy freshness and a hint of salty tang. A good example of the 2014 vintage.
£8.49 until 26 October at
Majestic Wine

Chateau de la Placeliere, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie ‘Organic’ 2014 Famille Lieubeau
Alcohol 12 per cent
Popular with tasters. This smells of pear skins and lemons with a gentle citric fruit palate and stone dry finish. It was aged for six months on the lees to add a creamy richness to the palate.
£9.50, Oddbins

Domaine de la Haut Fevrie, Les Gras Moutons, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2013
Alcohol 12 per cent
This was the top scorer in our tasting. A beautifully focused muscadet with citric aromas, grapefruit freshness on the palate with a soft, generous, fleshy, leesy richness on the mid-palate, minerally undertones and a very good length. Serious stuff at a very moderate price.
£11.95, Berry Bros & Rudd

Chateau du Coing de St Fiacre, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2014
Alcohol 12 per cent
Ripe stone fruit flavours and a full creamy palate. Not quite as racy and edgy as some, but a balanced fruit forward wine in a very quaffable style.
£10.99, The Cave Glasgow; Drinkmonger; Exel Wines; Fine
Wine Company; Harrisons Fine Wines; Lockett Bros

Domaine Gadais la Grande Cuvée, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2014
Alcohol 12 per cent
This was a good scorer with those who liked a crisper, lighter style. It has unusual baked bread aromas with a zesty lemon tang on the palate. The finish is not overly long but adequate for this price.
£8, Marks & Spencer

Domaine de Ratelles Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2013
Alcohol 12 per cent
Bone dry tense, firm style with clean lemony fruits at a very good price.
£6.75, www.thewinesociety.com

Domaine de la Haut Fevrie, Les Gras Moutons, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2013
Alcohol 12 per cent
A beautifully focused muscadet with citric aromas, grapefruit freshness on the palate with a soft, generous, fleshy, leesy richness on the mid-palate, minerally undertones and a very good length. Serious stuff at a very moderate price, this will restore your faith in muscadet.
£11.95, Berry Bros & Rudd

Comte de Leloup du Chateau de Chasseloir, Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2010
Alcohol 12 per cent
Another high scorer. For those who like their muscadet really creamy and rich.
£8.75, www.thewinesociety.com

• Join Rose’s wine tastings in Edinburgh, Glasgow  and St Andrews, www.rosemurraybrown.com

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Rose Murray Brown is one of only 323 Masters of Wine worldwide and is the only one to host wine courses and regular wine tastings in Scotland.

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