August 28, 2009

2002 Château de Chasseloir Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Cuvée de Ceps Centenaires

Ah, the pleasure of Muscadet.

It's known as the poor man's Chablis, the most underpriced appellation in France, confused by some for innocuous white wine that doesn't age. It's all that, but really it's just delicious wine. Yes, it's misunderstood and thus underpriced. Yes it can give that strong seashell minerality we love in Chablis. Can't we just appreciate it on its own terms?

Melon de Bourgogne is the grape here, grown in the maritime climate and rocky soils around the city of Nantes, near the mouth of the Loire river. I loved that part of France before I became interested in wine. I love it even more for Muscadet.

One exceptional producer I don't read nearly enough about is the Chateau de Chasseloir from Chereau Carre. Tonight I'm drinking their best bottling, which costs less than $15 from vines more than a century old.

This 2002 Cuvee des Ceps Centenaires is exceptional. Light bronze in color, befitting a 7 year old white wine, it smells fresh and clean with some mature notes of wax. The fragrance is lovely. Lots of seashell, with some sweet butter, honey, chamomile, lemon and apple notes. Even spicy jelly candies.

The texture is bright but rounded with some age, the flavors dry but long and persistent. I remember the 1996 vintage of this bottling to be almost painfully acidic some years ago. This wine has strong acidity and perhaps more fat to provide balance. I simply love this.

Indeed, one of the misunderstanding about Muscadet is that it doesn't age. That's simply wrong. The wine lasts and improves with cellaring. I've seen examples again and again to prove it, from this producer and several others.

I'm not one to pay much attention to label copy, but in this case what you read is true: "Rich and dry, the wine has many layers of fruit intertwined with mineral overtones. Drink with all shellfhish and elaborate fish dishes. This wine will benefit from further cellaring." I'll agree with that.

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