Melon de Bourgogne can be difficult to get to grips with. Not long ago there was a Muscadet tasting in my private wine club, and after having tasted through some 15 lightly coloured white wines one of the members observed that nobody had yet said a word about citrus.
The other day my student had trouble in describing this wine. And so had I, to be honest. I often start placing the aroma along the “apple scale”. Nothing obvious here. Citrus: Nope. Herbs and spices were difficult to detect, no butter, and wood: not at all. In the mouth it was quite full, but there was no particular acidity to talk about. I was thinking, maybe is this the perfect wine, when words… don’t come easy, but what you have in the glass is just delicious and, yes just wine, and just right.
In the Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine appellation mother and daughter Véronique & Aurore have 75 hectares of vineyards. The Château du Coing vineyard is a south-facing one. Then, it’s a lees-aged wine typical for the area.
Château du St. Coing de Saint Fiacre l’Ancestral 2015(Günther-Chéreau)
Straw yellow. Mature apples, some bread, white peach and maybe ginger. Full on the palate, a creamy lees character, medium length.
A visit at Apotekergaarden, Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway is always a highlight. This is a popular place in every sense of the word, with a fascinating mix of people coming for great natural wine served by manager and sommelier Ida Konradsen, and people coming in from the street for burgers and pizza, served by the staff, some of them really talented. There are also concerts in the backyard during the summer season. We were there last Sunday, when our meal was followed by a gig with Norwegian folk-rock band Valkyrien Allstars. I have played there myself too, in fact it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown in March. A more detailed background to the restaurant you can read here.
On Sunday they made a special plate of Italian cheese and ham, olives and other stuff for us, followed by a main course of duck with a compote of red onion and a burger with spicy mushroom and onion, and on Tuesday we shared various pizzas.
Here are some of the wines, some of them in fact outside the official menu, but generously offered by Ida and the staff.
Foam Somló 2019(Meinklang), Somló, Hungary, made by Meinklang of Burgenland, Austria who owns vineyards on both sides of the border. This is a pét nat from Hungarian grapes hárslevelű and juhfark.
Light golden; aroma of yellow apples, hints of pumpkin and gooseberry; concentrated, with a sweet-irh sensation, inspiring indeed.
Brut Nature Reserva Anne Marie(Castell d’Age), Cava, Catalunya, Spain
A traditional cava from one of the pioneers in organic farming in the Penedès area, named after Anne Marie Onyent, one of today’s leading ladies of the company. The grapes are the three usual cava “suspects”.
Slightly bubbly; fresh and appley; fine natural acidity.
La Croix Moriceau 2018(Complémen’ Terre)
A full and concentrated, mineral muscadet full of character.
Yellow; waxy, with mature apples and white peach; quite full, mineral (chalky), a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.
Palmento 2019 (Vino di Anna), Etna, Sicilia, Italy
Skin-contact wine made from the Sicilian carricante grape in fiberglass tanks.
Golden towards orange; aroma of citrus peel, clementine, apricot, mango; full in the mouth and slightly textured. Not too acid, low alcohol (11,5) and perfect while waiting for the main course.
Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.
A light, fruity barbera that comes in a full litre bottle (hence the name), made by the producer behind the famous “donkey wine” Asinoi. At best when chilled.
Lght cherry red; light berries (strawberry), herbs; lively in the mouth (slightly pétillant), juicy, with a good natural acidity.
Montesecondo 2018(Montesecondo), Toscana, Italy
Located in the Chianti area, but not always classified as such. This is an entry-level wine, with 2% of trebbiano blended in with the sangiovese. If my memory doesn’t fail me it’s a light vintage for this wine.
Rather light cherry colour, aroma dominated by red berries; juicy and refreshing.
Made from tempranillo grapes in Arnedo in the lower part of Rioja. Not completely natural, but with a low amount of sulphur added.
Dark red; blackberry and spice; full, fresh and fruity.
After a few wines I often like to round it off with a beer, to “stabilize” the stomach that by now feels like full of acidity. So I asked Mathias S. Skjong, the in-house brewer, if he had something special, maybe something personal. So he produced Terje (made by Mathias himself in collaboration with Grimstad’s successful brewery Nøgne Ø and given a wide distribution by them, for the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary. It’s a very very hoppy, citrussy and dry India pale ale. Perfect to round off another good meal at Apotekergaarden.
Marc Pesnot is located in the Muscadet part of the Loire valley. I didn’t know much about him, but two wines in a private wine club tasting made me look him up. There was the Miss Terre 2018, an impressive, concentrated wine. Here I chose the lighter one, Cœur de Raisin, meaning grape-heart, that I took home and watched the development over two days.
Marc Pesnot says that at first he was not particularly fond of the wines of the region, but realized it didn’t have so much to do with the grape variety as the methods, the industrialized way they were normally treated. The main objective of this wine is to use the melon de bourgogne grapes, bottle it early to produce a light, low alcohol wine, a so-called “primeur wine”. But ok, this is maybe true compared his other wines, but it has plenty of character still.
Pesnot now has 22 hectares of ﬁfty year-old melon de bourgogne grapes in schistous soil. This gives a perfume and minerality very rare for Muscadet. He doesn’t recognize it as a particularly fruity grape, but seeks for a can be very complex treated the right way. To achieve this he starts with old grapes, treats them in a natural, artisan way, uses light pressing. He allows malo-lactic fermentation in all his wines.
Cœur de Raisin 2019(Marc Pesnot)
Golden colour. Mature apples, flowers, clementine and apricot on the nose. Textured, balances between lightness and a glylceric fatness, with good acidity and a lovely mineral touch.