Last year I visited the famous Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-de-Provence. The featured show was a magnificent display of Renaissance artists, bigger than life and astoundingly vibrant. After the main spectacle, Voyage Imaginaire: Hommage à Jules Verne, a short and fantastic depiction of the work of Jules Vern, closed down the exhibit for the evening. For those powerful moments I was under the water with the amazing tale of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I’m asking now that you turn your imagination up, let your senses melt past their current barriers, allow your mind to bubble and pop with fantasy. Be under the sea with creatures you don’t know, with creatures that slip against your side and blow bubbles along the back of your neck. Let saltwater wash through your fingers and toes; burst up from the depths under a fresh, clean sky…
If you were to emerge from the Atlantic coast of Brittany, your first breath of sea-salt air would be in the Pays Nantais wine region, home to Jules Verne and the setting for our exploration of the wines of Muscadet. A taste of Muscadet, grown along the shores of the Atlantic, is said to be a wine-mirror for the salty fruits of the sea. In Pays Nantais you’ll find superbly crisp and dry white wines, the type of drink you’d love to have on your lips after a long swim in the sea.
Château de la Fessardière Climat 2012, Alexis Sauvion
As an example of the region, I purchased a bottle of Muscadet made by winemaker Alexis Sauvion, Château de la Fessardière. I purchased this wine from my local shop, The Corkscrew, which offers an online shop where you can get a few bottles for yourself. I have the 2012 vintage of a bottle that bears an Eco Cert as well as an Agriculture France Vin Biologique label. The Sauvion family has a long history of making wines in the Loire Valley, and Alexis uses biologique methods to make this wine, a lovely example of the herbal, citrus, distinct flavor of Muscadet wines. According to Sauvion’s blog (my translation from French):
Organic winemaking is essential to retain the grape’s own yeasts that will allow it to ferment naturally sugar into alcohol with the aromas of the vintage. Working the land is essential for the vines to live and its roots go down deep look for the subtleties of terroir is a culture that respects the earth that feeds, to feed the plant. Our organic Muscadet reflects this philosophy, it is a rich, mineral wine which feeds all the qualities of the soil.
Melon de Bourgogne
Wines of Muscadet are made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Melon de Bourgogne reaches its best expression when grown in the Loire, though it originated (as the name suggests) in Burgundy but didn’t thrive past the 16th century. Anjou winemakers gave the varietal a try at that time, hoping for hardiness against frost. It was around this time that Dutch distillers in the region planted Melon de Bourgogne vineyards near Nantes, in order to produce yields significant enough to satisfy their brandy-making needs. Then, in the early 1700’s, a severely harsh winter caused Atlantic coastal waters to freeze, red vineyards to suffer destruction and even forced frozen barrels to burst in the cellars. The devastating cold manifested a loss for many vignerons, but the weather brought news of the substantial survival capacity of Melon de Bourgogne. According to Wines of Loire Valley, Pays Nantais is the largest white wine appellation in France, proving through vigor the outstanding match between Pay Nantais and Melon de Bourgogne.
According to Loire Valley Wine:
“The Muscadet AOP is composed of 3,600 hectares / 8,895 acres. The soil is a varied structure of igneous and metamorphic rock from the Massif Armoricain, mainly made up of gneiss, mica schist, and smaller quantities of greenstone and granite.The entire area benefits from a temperate oceanic climate with even rainfall throughout the year. Between one end of the vineyards and the other, slight differences in climate are caused by variations in the distance from the coast, the Loire or other bodies of water.”
The Meal: Light + Fresh
We prepared a set of dishes to pair with this wine: fresh fettucine with sautéed shrimp, thinly sliced mushrooms with parmesan cheese and mussels in white wine and butter sauce. Very simply prepared, we used butter, black pepper, shallots, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and the main ingredients to make this fresh and delicious spread.
The wine paired perfectly with all of the dishes, in particular the mussels which contained a bit of the dry white wine in the sauce. Any combination of these ingredients would marry so perfectly with the Muscadet.
French Winophiles: Pays Nantais
The French Winophiles take you on a tour of Pays Nantais region of the Loire Valley. This region is on the Atlantic Coast and is known for producing wine since the Roman era. The Winophiles have prepared some beautiful pairings perfect for your Easter Celebration, or Spring Soiree. Here’s a peak at what they are sharing Saturday:
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla presents “Balsalmic Roasted Strawberry Bruschetta with Chateau Mattes-Sabran Rosè”
Jeff from Food Wine Click premieres “Mussels & Muscadet in our Imaginary Nantes Bistro”
Jill from L’Occasion pairs “Light & Fresh with Muscadet” (that’s me!)
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Pays Nantais and Taste of Contemporary Muscadet”
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog goes deep with “Diving into Loire Valley Wine with Winophiles: Pays Nantes”
Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva (that’s me) shares “Puff Pastry with Bleu Cheese & Pair with Wines from Pays Nantais”
Join us on Saturday, March 19th for a live Twitter Chat at 10am Central/11 am Eastern using hashtag #Winophiles to share your favorite wines, food, and travel experiences from Pays Nantais.
Join us this spring as we virtually cruise up the Loire:
- April 16th – Anjou/Saumer
- May 21st – Touraine/Vouvray
- June 18th – Upper Loire – Cheverny, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume/Pouilly-Sur-Loire