Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A New Grape: Oak?

By mistake I picked up a bottle of wine that I thought was a was a Sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley in France. I had my first Loire wine last month, a Sancerre that I liked a lot. This bottle didn't say Sancerre, but it did say Loire Valley so I thought I'd be learning more about French SBs. I should have read the label better!

If I had, I would have seen that this was a Muscadet wine. Muscadet is made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne, a wine that used to grow in Burgundy but was kicked out in the 1600's! Currently grown in the mouth of the Loire Valley, the grape is resistant to cold and frost and has flourished in this maritime climate.

If I'd read the bottle better, I would have also noticed the words "sur lie" printed under the winery's name. Apparently, Muscadet, that has been produced and aged in accordance with strict guidelines, may be designated "Muscadet Sur Lie." This involves keeping the wine in the barrel (on the lees or sur lie) all winter, which "allows the wine's aromas to develop, and carbonic gas produced by this process imparts a liveliness on the palate." I did not experience this effect with my bottle of Muscadet!

The only flavor I got was oak. There was oak on the nose, while the wine was in my mouth and in the finish. I thought the wine would go well with some home made Chinese food that my wife and sister made for our Super Bowl meal, but the oak was just too much. I thought I was drinking an over oaked Chardonnay, but I couldn't tell because there wasn't really any fruit flavor. Only after the wine had warmed up over an hour in the glass did I detect some fruit. I hope I can find a better example of a Muscadet. The comparison will be interesting. (Anyone have a good recommendation?)

The bottle wasn't a total loss. I got to add a new grape to my count towards 100 different grapes (this was # 45 for me!) I got to learn the hard way that the Loire Valley is a big place and makes lots of different kinds of white wine. And I learned that if I'm not sure of what words are on the label, I can't just assume a location is only one grape. And finally, thanks to the oak flavor that is etched on my palate's memory, I'll know that Melon de Bourgogne is used to make a Muscadet.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Light golden yellow

Aroma: Oak

Taste: Oak (some slight citrus after an hour in the glass)

Finish: Oak


Kathleen Lisson, CSW said...

I have become more sensitive to the Oak Monster as well. But Americans love their oaky wines.
Let the wine shop staff know next time that you are looking for an unoaked wine. Good luck!
Kathleen Lisson

Sonadora said...

Oh, this is the antithesis of a wine I would like. Oak and I are not friends!

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