Grape Expectations: Melon de Bourgogne

Despite its rather misleading name, the grape variety Melon de Bourgogne has very little to do with Burgundy (where you will know, if you have been paying attention to this column, that Chardonnay is the white grape of choice). No, Melon is the grape variety used to make Muscadet.

A rather neutral, unshowy grape, Melon comes into its own in the hands of the winemakers of the Nantais, on the very western side of the Loire. Producers of Muscadet apply a very specific technique to their wines, known as ‘sur lie’. This involves leaving the freshly fermented wine in contact with yeast cells over the winter. The purpose of this technique is to protect the wine from oxygen (which would otherwise damage its delicate flavour profile), as well as imbuing it with a slightly dough like, yeasty flavour. It also allows the wine to retain a characteristic spritz of carbon dioxide, adding to its refreshing nature.

I often go on to recommend different countries or wine regions where one might find the grape varieties described in this column, but today this is not the case as Melon de Bourgogne remains the sole preserve of Muscadet. All I can say is to buy a good one, pick up some shellfish, and have a bl**dy good afternoon!

Département 44 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie – Modern Muscadet with real depth of flavour. A lick of salinity makes this a perfect partner for seafood.