As the Loire River travels west toward the Atlantic coast, different climates and soil types make way for unique wine growing conditions. The Muscadet wine region is one of the westernmost AOCs in the Loire Valley. After reading this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about Muscadet wine, including terroir and climate, what grapes are used, how it’s made, and some practical tips for a visit to the region.
What is Muscadet Wine?
Muscadet wine is a type of French wine from the Pays Nantais wine region near Nantes. It is named after the dominant grape variety that grows there, Melon de Bourgogne, because it was once thought to have a musky aroma. The combination of cool maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean, rocky soils, and warm summer sunshine make this a perfect location for growing this unique white grape.
Muscadet wines are dry white wines that are characteristically light bodied with fresh citrus flavors balanced by minerality, acidity, and sometimes have a hint of salinity.
Melon de Bourgogne
As mentioned previously, the grapes grown in Muscadet wine production are the varietal called Melon de Bourgogne. These grapes may have originated in Burgundy, but they thrive in the cool and wet climate of Pays Nantais.
While some other varietals are grown in the area, any wine using the name Muscadet must be made with Melon de Bourgogne. Also, this grape is grown for wine in other parts of France, but only wines from Muscadet appellations can be called Muscadet.
Due to the climate, the juice from the Melon grape is generally healthy amount of acidity, but fairly delicate in flavor. To bring out the subtleties in this grape, some winemakers in Nantes wine region take an additional step in the winemaking process.
Muscadet Sur Lie Winemaking
Winemaking techniques for Muscadet wine are unique compared to other wines in the Loire Valley. Many Muscadet wines are made using the sur lie (lees aging) method as part of the production process. When a wine is aged “on the lees,” it has been aged in a tank or barrel with the dead yeast cells left over from the fermentation process.
The reason winemakers practice lees aging in Muscadet is to add depth to the delicate and naturally neutral flavor of the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Only certain appellations in the region can produce sur lie Muscadet wine.
There are four major Muscadet appellations (AOCs), including the overall Muscadet AOC. They are:
The Muscadet AOC covers the entire region, including the three sur lies regions below. It encompasses over 3200 acres with soil made of sedimentary and igneous rock, metamorphic rock, mica, sand, clay and even gabbro. Gabbro is a green hardened lava rock that isn’t often found outside of Muscadet.
The terroir of the Muscadet growing region is diverse, as some vineyards are close to the ocean or a river, and some are further away from either water source’s influence. The climate is cooler than the rest of Loire Valley and the grapes grown in vineyards closest to the sea might have a hint of salinity. There are several microclimates within the region as well. Without lees aging, Muscadet wines are fresh, fruity, and light.
Within the Muscadet wine region, there are three sur lies regional sub appellations. Within those, there are named crus. These Crus are similar to Beaujolais Crus, in that there are not different levels or designated vineyards, and they are named after villages they surround. However, the Crus Communeaux are distinct in Muscadet because the boundaries were drawn in areas with unique soil conditions and microclimates.
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine is the largest and most widely available AOC in the region. It is produced from vines that grow on both sides of the Sèvre and Maine Rivers, which span about 90 km (56 miles). Wines made here are light-bodied, with fresh citrus flavors balanced by high levels of minerality.
All but one Cru is located in the Sevre et Maine appellation, and they include: Gorges, Le Pallet, Clisson, Vallet, Monnières-Saint-Fiacre, Château Thébaud, Mouzillon – Tillières, Monnières Saint-Fiacre, Goulaine, La Haye Fouassière.
Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu
Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu is located on the south side of the Loire River around the Lake of Grandlieu, and west of the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine AOC. Grapes in this Muscadet appellation tend to ripen early, resulting in richer and more fruity aromas. Historically, some of the best wines for aging have come from this region.
Muscadet du Coteaux-de-la-Loire
Muscadet du Coteaux-de-la-Loire surrounds Ancenis in the north of the Muscadet wine region, and flanks both sides of the Loire River. It is also the smallest appellation within the Muscadet wine region and home to Cru Champtoceaux.
Producers of Muscadet Wines
Here are some notable Muscadet producers from Pays Nantais:
- Domaine Petard Bazile
- Domaine de la Pépière
- Domaine Landron
- Domaine Luneau-Papin
- Domaine de Bellevue
Food Pairing Ideas with Muscadet Wine
Muscadet wines are typically light and refreshing, with notes of citrus and green apple. Seafood and shellfish pairs beautifully with Muscadet, especially oysters, which enhance different flavors in the wine. Also, Beurre de Nantes is a sauce that originated in Nantes, and naturally pairs well with the local Muscadet wine.
Muscadet vs Moscato
Muscadet and Moscato are two wines that are often confused with each other. While the names may sound the same, the main difference is that Muscadet is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape while Moscato is made from a different grape called Muscat. There are a handful of common varietals of Muscat planted all over the world, and Moscato is the Italian word for this grape and the wine made from it in Italy.
Muscadet Wine FAQ
Is Muscadet sweet?
Muscadet is a dry white wine, with aromas of citrus and fruit. It is not a sweet wine.
Is there a Muscadet petillant?
Some producers in the Muscadet AOC are making petillant and champenoise sparkling wine with Melon grapes.
What color is Muscadet wine?
Muscadet wine is a white wine. The color can range depending on the wine, from a pale yellow color that sometimes leans green (similar to Sauvignon Blanc) to a more saturated golden yellow.
Visit the Muscadet Appellations in Loire Valley
To truly learn about Muscadet wine, the region, and how it’s made, go straight to the source. While Nantes is a bit far from Paris for a day trip, it’s a great town to spend a couple nights. After touring wineries nearby, there are some great restaurants and wine bars to continue your exploration of Muscadet wine and regional cuisine.
Plus, Nantes is only a 45 minute drive from the ocean. The best time to visit Nantes and Western Loire Valley is in the summer. The days are warm but not hot, and the evenings are very cool. When it’s hot everywhere else in Europe, the Muscadet wine region can be a great place to escape for a few days.