Luneau-Papin “Domaine Pierre de La Grange” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Sur Lie” “Vieilles Vignes” (Loire) – Generous for a Muscadet, but with plenty of nerve and cut, showing brined, water-bathed seashells and a pearl-like texture cut with firm (but not oppressive) lemony acidity. Clean and balanced, with a solid finish and volume-raising affability with food. (8/06)
If there’s a “problem” with the high-quality Muscadets now available from specialist importers like Louis/Dressner (and others), it’s that they confound culinary expectations. They’re not the ultra-crisp, brazen expressions of crushed bivalves that provide such a terrific foil for oysters and their like. Instead, they’re more complete and full-bodied wines, some even possessing the character to be enjoyable on their own. And who’s ever heard of that from a Muscadet? Anyway, the trick is to get a little more aggressive with the pairings. Seafood is still the thing, but I served this with a “surf & surf” dinner of soft-shell crab (soaked in lebne cheese and coated with garbanzo bean flour, then fried), pan-seared salmon (briefly dusted with a Japanese rice flavoring mix that was heavy on the bonito), and local red oak greens drizzled with a ginger and macadamia nut oil vinaigrette. Normally, that would be way too much for a simple Muscadet. Here, the combination was explosively good. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Tourniaire “‘Le Gari’ des Hauts Débats” 2002 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Smooth, sanded and buffed bubblegum and leather squeezings with the dark residue of blackberries. It’s country wine – simple, everyday quaffing stuff – and is a little too oval for deeper interest, which may very well be a result of the difficult, flooded 2002 vintage. Still, this is the sort of simple, clean wine on which an entire culture of non-oenophilic enjoyment is based. How could one find fault with that? (8/06)
If you’ve read A Year in Provence, you know how this wine is made. A friend and his parents have a place near Jonquières…and like many properties in this area, it comes with vineyards on the property. The grapes are worked by and sold to a cooperative, where they are blended and made into a regional wine (in this case, entitled to the Côtes-du-Rhône appellation). Grape suppliers are then paid either with money, with wine, or (more often) a combination of both. I’ve had the white, rosé and red from this establishment, and all are nice, simple wines that I’d be pleased to drink on a daily basis. Lucky people, these friends of mine. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Not commercially available.