Muscadet: More than Melon de Bourgogne
The wine universe is ever-changing; it is what makes this magic liquid so endlessly fascinating. The side effect is that what is written about it soon becomes dated. Books inevitably so, but also websites. Despite the fact that any webpage can be updated at any moment, I believe (correct me if I am wrong) that most wine websites are built around the publication of a stream of new material, rather than updating previously published pages.
Here on Winedoctor I have always made efforts to do both; new tasting reports are interspersed with updates to older pages (easier said than done with more than 5,000 pages of material online). Following the recent expansion of my guide to the Nantais with my newly published introduction to the region’s geology (complex but hopefully comprehensible with the illustrations graciously sent to me by Vincent Lieubeau, pictured below, of Famille Lieubeau), and my detailed guides to granite, gabbro, schist, gneiss and the curiously named ophiolites, I have today updated a few other pages to reflect developments in the Muscadet appellation that have occurred since I originally published the guide back in 2017.
The main development is the expansion of varieties which are eligible for the Muscadet appellation. It is no longer home purely to Melon de Bourgogne, or Melon B as some call it these days (I hear sensitive inhabitants of Burgundy got their knickers in a twist over the use of the term Bourgogne, prompting the invention of the new name ‘Melon B’ – of course this could just be Ligérian tittle-tattle). From 2020 the appellation now has a secondary variety, which may account for up to 10% of the blend. That variety is Chardonnay.
The addition of a secondary variety to the Muscadet appellation has been mooted for years, the big négociants who would have the most to gain being the most vocal protagonists. I always thought it a bad idea (and I still do). It does nothing for the image of the region which has otherwise changed for the better over the last couple of decades. That this is so is down to improved quality and interest at the top end, with long-lees-aged styles and the crus communaux wines, and it is not helped by cheap manipulations at the bottom end. Happily, I am sure that the great achievements that have been made in the region will not be overshadowed by the arrival of Chardonnay, especially as it applies only to the generic appellation, and not the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu and Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire appellations. In the end, while I think the inclusion of Chardonnay is a bad idea, ultimately I won’t lose any sleep over it, any more than I would if the Bourgogne Passetoutgrains appellation was amended to permit Syrah. After all, when was the last time you drank a bottle of generic Muscadet? (Nearly six years, in my case, if you were wondering).
Other recent developments are also covered in my updated guides. In particular, the limit for the use of the sur lie designation has changed; previously the wines had to be in bottle by November 30th of the year after the vintage, but in good vintages many vignerons applied for a derogation, delaying until December 31st. In the end this was made a permanent rule. In reality it is a minor change, but useful knowledge for MW students I guess.
The other development that interested me is the removal of the sur lie designation as an option for the basic Muscadet appellation. I know a number of wine writers seemed to believe that this was always the case, but this belief was erroneous, as basic Muscadet could be labelled as sur lie, as illustrated above. In 2020, however, the Muscadet appellation seemingly caught up with the wine world’s opinion of it, and this is no longer permissible. From now on only the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu and Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire appellations can utilise the sur lie suffix.
In order to reflect these developments, the pages I have updated are as follows:
Next I will be updating and expanding my pages on the Crus Communaux wines, with more Muscadet tasting reports on the wines of Domaine des Tilleuls, Les Bêtes Curieuses and others on the way. (2/9/21)