4 Things You Might Not Know About Muscadet
As proprietor and vigneron at La Pépière, Marc Olivier takes his time. He takes pride in the long history of Muscadet, the wines that have made him famous throughout the world. He harvests all his grapes by hand, uses only natural yeasts for fermentation, and waits until the wine becomes ready on its own before bottling. It's a rarity these days in a appellation where most producers have turned increasingly to mechanized and industrialized production.
To honor Mssr. Olivier, I thought I'd lay out a few broadstrokes about the people, places and wines of his homeland.
1. It's a Wine, Not a Grape
Although the word Muscadet sounds a little like Muscat or Moscato, it bears little resemblance to the two latter terms, which are wine grape varietals that tend to be made into sweet wines. Muscadet is the name of a wine from a growing region centered around the city of Nantes along the Atlantic coast of France. The wines there are made with a grape called Melon de Bourgogne and are typically very dry with a crisp minerality.
2. Fish Out of Water
The Muscadet appellation is part of the greater Loire Valley, a region better known for its Sauvignon Blanc (white) and Cabernet Franc (red). Muscadet is different for historical rather than geographical reasons: the old province of Brittany, where Muscadet is made, developed an early wine culture independently from its inland neighbors in Anjou, where Loire wine is at its most prominent.
3. Pearly Whites
Maybe it's a product of my upbringing on the Atlantic Coast, but cold weather months find me craving cold water oysters, and absolutely nothing washes down fresh oysters quite like a glass of Muscadet. It's one of those quintessential pairings, one that really shows off the potential of a flavor combination which, if done right, is much more than the sum of its parts.
4. Boom Town
Muscadet is a modern, commercial success story for French wine. From the 1970s to the current era, the appellation has more than doubled its production. That has led to some dubious practices though, which makes old-school vignerons like Marc Olivier all the more valuable for those of us who love these delicate wines.
These are two exemplars of the style from Domaine de la Pépière. We just got the new vintages and they're as beautiful as ever.
Domaine de la Pépière — $14
Pépière's base-level Muscadet offering is a shining light in the world of affordable, everyday wines. It's good all the time: on it's own, with a light meal, in summer and winter. Made from vines that are more than 40 years old and are original to the property—Olivier is the only farmer/producer in the region without clones from other estates.
La Pépière "Clos des Briords" — $16
This was the first cuvée Olivier made beyond the base-level Domaine wine. It is made from a single plot of vines, the oldest on his estate at 80+ years, where the topsoil is much deeper and contains a more clay than elsewhere. The terroir of this wine makes it one of the boldest, most robust Muscadets made today. Pure delight.