Pepière Les Gras Moutons Muscadet 2014
Wine: Domaine de la Pepière 'Les Gras Moutons'
Region: Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Loire Valley
Grapes: Melon de Bourgogne
"Muscadet, one of France's dry white commodity wines currently undergoing revolution while trying to survive," so says the Oxford Companion to Wine. Muscadet's popularity has certainly peaked and valleyed, and is currently taking a slow climb back into favor. My first experience of it was at Aquagrill in New York's SoHo, where I waited tables in 1999 & 2000, a natural environment for the value-driven juice with upwards of 25 different oysters available at the raw bar every day. Oysters are a favorite pairing for the high acid, lean white with marked salinity on the finish. The region sits at the far west end of the Loire Valley near the juncture of river and Atlantic Ocean and some of France's prime oyster beds.
The wines are often produced sur lie, which adds a richness to the wine that lightly tempers the Melon de Bourgogne's inherent bracing acidity. Grown almost nowhere else on the planet (excepting a few acres in Washington and California and maybe Oregon), the grape is practically synonymous with Muscadet. Domaine de la Pepière is one of the leading producers of Muscadet and this bottling, from the lieu dit "Les Gras Moutons", is one of the more balanced renditions I've tasted in a while. Muscadet often gives me heartburn right out of the bottle, a disappointing jolt, like walking into a loud, crowded bar and suddenly realizing you just want be home. This one did not.
I eschewed the classic pairing of seafood and bivalves here and instead made my famous lemon roasted chicken. By famous I mean famous to me because it's something I can make with extremely little effort and no recipe, my favorite kind of cooking these days. Following my own wine pairing advice, I thought the lemon in the dish would match well with the lemon and Meyer lemon peel flavors and textures in the wine. And it did, beautifully.
The Domaine de la Pepière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 'Les Gras Moutons' 2014 is pale yellow in color with high-toned acidity, lemon pulp and rind, melon and stony notes. On the mid-palate, a surprising and delightful wave of roundness saunters through, then lingers on the finish. If you've seen the domaine's classic Muscadet, and if you drink this wine ever you probably have, the Gras Moutons is a treat to pursue, and a symbol of the region's collective efforts to produce site specific, higher quality, age-worthy wines. I would love to taste this in 10 or 15 years. I can only imagine.