Education can involve wine.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a very affordable and educational wine tasting at Bar Pastoral here in Chicago. Muscadet. Watch yourself. It is not what you think. That word was not Muscat or Moscato. An all too common confusion, I learned. No dear. Muscadet is a white wine made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne, in the western region of the Loire Valley in France. Though it can have some sweet notes, it is not a "sweet wine" as we think of the two aforementioned M's. Muscadet is very special and as I learned, has an underdog story. We should all be purchasing, consuming and collecting now, before it gets priced out. And if for no other reason, because it is very enjoyable wine.
First off, Bar Pastoral. It is connected to the Lakeview location of one of Chicago's finest wine and cheese shops, Pastoral. I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the Andersonville location, sometime this Fall! Bar Pastoral serves food and of course wine. I had never been in before and will definitely return for their brunch, a cheese and wine pairing, or both. Given that they have some of the best cheeses around town, it made sense to go ahead and order the paring, that which they had thoughtfully selected for yesterday's tasting. Twist my rubber arm. The tasting itself was only $5 per person and tickets could be purchased via Eventbrite through their website. Super easy. And then they did a really nice and also business wise thing: applied the $5 to any in-store retail purchase. This gets me every time. I wish more businesses would get the hint. Consumers spend more if they think they are getting a deal. I sure do!
Back to Muscadet. The "T" is silent, like ballet. Muscadet. The tasting was hosted by Damien Casten from Candid Wines, who happens to have a passion for the wines of Muscadet, and possesses a depth of knowledge on the area. He guided us through 4 different wines, giving an overview of the area and the history to start, and then discussing each wine, staggered as we tasted. He also walked around and answered questions in-between. He explained that the wine we were tasting came from the only 2 biodynamic producers in all of Muscadet, and they are: Domaine de la Louvetrie and Domaine de l'Ecu.
The Magic of Muscadet.
To be clear, this means that these winemakers use farming techniques that abstain from the use of pesticides or any other chemicals on the crops, and in their entire process of winemaking. It is organic, yes, but biodynamic is beyond what we think of as organic. Biodynamic practices are actively aiming to restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. In a sense, wine made in this fashion is more holistic. It has a soul. Maybe this is where the "magic" comes in. It was produced in a manner in which all aspects were in congruence. And I for one, believe you can taste it. But here is the deal in Muscadet: it has been a historically economic disadvantaged area. Read poor. So there is tremendous incentive to cheaply produce wine, with all of the chemicals and industrial techniques to sell it for a quick profit. These 2 producers, Domaine de la Louvetrie and Domaine de l'Ecu, are changing the game and hopefully the future of the area.
Always start with bubbles.
We initiated the tasting with a refreshing sparkling wine made of the grapes: Folle Blanche and Pinot Noir. Not Melon de Bourgogne. That came next. What a tasty treat! I love sparkling wine anyhow an the pairing with the sheep milk cheese and lemon curd was just beyond pleasurable. The wine: Atmospheres ($22.99) or to better locate it NV Domaine de la Louvetrie (Landron & Fils) Atmosphéres. The effervescence was light, as it is made in the same style as Champagne and fermented in the bottle. It has a nice acidity and though we enjoyed with the creamy cheese, oysters would be a classic pairing. Also, the region from which it hails is coastal so there are some undeniable matches. We decided to nab a bottle. Yum!
Now how about that Melon?
The next two wines were the infamous Melon de Bourgogne, 100%. At last. I was eager to try this fabled wine. The first one, also from Domaine de la Louvetrie, was le Fief du Breil ($22.99). Very nice! High acidity with citrus and mineral notes and an ever so wee bit of...salt? Makes sense. With the proximity to the sea. The pairing with a cow/goat cheese, Martone, and the accompanying tomato jam, took it to the next level, Seriously, I am talking structure. I really had a good time with that one.
The second Melon (that is shorthand for Melon de Bourgogne), was the Cuvée Classique ($19.99) from Domaine de l'Ecu. It was also a treat. Citrus on the nose and also deep texture. It definitely changed as I layered in the cheese, which was a raw cow with a berry jam. This is one of the entry level wines for Domaine de l'Ecu, so I imagine that they just get tastier. I have to admit that the previous Melon was my preference but I would not turn down either wine.
That Red Noz is iconic!
The final wine to taste was surprise, surprise: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Also from Domaine de l'Ecu, the Rednoz ($26.99) is a rarity, though I am pretty sure I have had before as I recall the label, and the guy in the suit jacket with a huge red schnoz. The wine is not oaked a bit. Therefore the taste is all from the fruit, of which it has plenty. It is succulent and very, very drinkable. It energized me, whereas heavily oaked cabs can slow me down. I could see sipping it with or without food. The raw cow cheese with honey was a jolly addition. It really is a versatile and happy wine.
In conclusion, I learned a ton about Muscadet and will definitely aim to incorporate wines from the region into my experiences. Especially now that I know Muscadet boasts such top notch wines, without the prohibitive costs of some other French wine regions, who shall remain unnamed (ok I love those too but the cost is just goofy sometimes). I suggest y'all do the same. Support Muscadet wines, but remember, not all Muscadet is created equally. If you want wine with soul, go for these biodynamic producers: Domaine de la Louvetrie and Domaine de l'Ecu (labels pictured below). And I happen to know that Bar Pastoral and their adjacent shop, Pastoral, in Chicago is carrying all the wines featured right now. Don't make haste!