Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Ah, France. As was reported recently in the international press, France’s incoming president, François Hollande, is trimming back some of the bling-bling excesses of his model-marrying, Patek Philippe-wearing predecessor. Aside from brutal austerity measures like junior ministers being deprived of their bodyguards (imagine how terrifying this must make the day-to-day existence of the French Food Processing Industry junior minister, for instance), Hollande has apparently replaced Champagne with Muscadet at most official events.
Sacre bleu! Madness! But actually I kind of like the idea, because I love Muscadet. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape on the far western edge of the Loire Valley, it’s one of the great bargains in white wine as far as I’m concerned. Crisp and minerally, tangy and herbal, it’s often said to be the ultimate oyster wine, but it’s equally good with pretty much any other kind of seafood too. The best producers typically age the wine on its lees (the spent yeasts from fermentation) for several months, which adds texture and complexity. Here are five worth looking for:
2010 Sauvion Château du Cléray Haute Culture Muscadet Sèvre et Main Sur Lie ($10)
Light gold in hue, citrusy and crisp, with a subtle chalky note.
2011 Domaine de la Pépière Classique Muscadet Sèvre et Main Sur Lie ($13)
Rounder and suppler than many, with a lightly honeyed note.
2010 Domaine de la Tourmaline Muscadet Sèvre et Main Sur Lie ($13)
Muscadet often has a faintly salty or briny note; this one is a good example.
2011 Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu ($13)
A tiny tingle of effervescence lifts the citrus and saline flavors here.
2011 Joseph Landron Domaine de la Louvetrie Hermine d’Or ($14)
Lime-scented and bracing, with remarkably long-lasting flavor.
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