Muscadet is perhaps the ultimate fish wine, particularly when it comes to shellfish and especially oysters. Made without oak, it pairs well with the brininess of shellfish, and many people detect a slightly briny quality in the wine itself. It is, after all, from the western Loire Valley of France, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. Muscadet is the appellation (the name of the wine), but the grape is the melon de Bourgogne, suggesting that it originated in Burgundy.
Muscadet is typically enjoyed young, within a year or two of bottling, although I have tasted aged examples – 10 or even 20 years old – that are rich, complex and wonderful. There is a great deal of Muscadet produced; dozens of them are available in the United States and most are inexpensive, often in the $10 to $15 range. A good one to look for is the 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from Domaine de la Tourmaline, which retails for around $14. It’s tangy and refreshing with pear, melon, citrus and herb notes and will also drink well as an aperitif and with lighter chicken dishes and with salads. Imported by Cognac One, New York.
By the way, have you ever tried red wine with fish? Lighter red wines, such as Beaujolais from the gamay grape and lower-alcohol pinot noirs from Burgundy and elsewhere, can be great matches with salmon, bluefish, striped bass and other robustly flavored fish. Beaujolais – beyond the gimmicky Beaujolais Nouveau – remains one of the more underappreciated red wine values. The region south of Burgundy produces affordable and interesting terroir-driven wines under a dozen or so sub-appellations that show lots of diversity.
One worth considering is the just-released 2010 Moulin-à-Vent from Château des Jacques owned by the Burgundy house Louis Jadot. While the wine is still young, it has subtle and delicious cherry and spice notes and an underlying minerality and some smoke that give it good complexity. Beaujolais is generally served slightly chilled and, in addition to fish, consider this one for grilled chicken, duck breasts, pork and ham. While the suggested price is $22, I’ve seen it listed in previous vintages for at least several dollars less. Imported by Kobrand Corporation, New York. Wines received as press samples.
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