Thursday, 4 February 2010

Learning to love Muscadet

Fashion is a fickle thing. Pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are currently the UK drinker's white wines of choice. Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé have spawned a thousand sauvignon blancs from New Zealand to Chile, via South Africa and Eastern Europe. And Italy's GDP figures would surely be severely dented if we stopped glugging their crisp, vaguely fruity pinot grigios at every available opportunity.

But here's a question: when was the last time you drank a Muscadet?

Muscadet used to be oh so chic, but now the only time you're likely to drink it is at an eighties themed evening, when it might be served alongside a prawn cocktail, before the beef stroganoff and the black forest gateau.

There is nothing intrinsically bad about Muscadet – indeed the crisp, fresh, lightly fruity flavours are not a million miles away in style from pinot grigio. It's simply that wine fashion has moved on and poor old Muscadet is one of its victims.

Generally we think of Muscadet as being one of those wines that you should treat as DYA (drink youngest available) and not keep for a minute longer than necessary. And in general, this holds true for the Muscadets we see on the supermarket shelves at around the £5 mark.

Pierre and Marie at Domaine Luneau-Papin, however, take pride in making Muscadet that ages amazingly well. I tasted a vertical of their L d'Or Muscadets from 2008 back to 1989. As we got to the 2003, I wrote: “Now this is getting interesting”. All vintages of the wine had plenty of life in them and retained a characteristic freshness, with increasing complexity and depth of flavour as we went back in time to the earlier vintages. 

UK importer Les Caves de Pyrène has L d'Or 1999 for £13.59. Buy a bottle, serve it blind to some friends and marvel at the rich, yet dry, flavours that unfold. But not with a prawn cocktail please.

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