June 10, 2008

Anecdotal Evidence

Last Friday, we had dinner at a friend's house and I brought over a Muscadet from a biodynamic producer from the Loire Valley. Guy Bossard's Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Expression d'Orthogneiss from 2005.

Muscadet is made from Melon de Bourgogne, historically used to produce eau de vie, a distilled spirit popular in 19th century Holland, and, therefore, treated with some disdain by very serious drinkers of only very serious wines. But I'm not very serious, and I love it. Originally grown in Burgundy (hence the name), the Melon de Bourgogne became dominant in the western Loire Valley after a hard freeze in 1709 killed most of the region's other vines. In 1937, the official Muscadet appellation was established. Long considered a "minor" grape, recent DNA research has established that the Melon de Bourgogne is actually a close cousin of Chardonnay. Both descend from cross-breeding between an ancient Pinot Noir varietal and the Gouais Blanc, an antique white grape long ago deemed too mediocre for use in serious wine (see The New York Times, but doing so may require subscription).

In spite of this heritage, when we drank Bossard's Muscadet on Friday, I found it disappointing. It wasn't bad. Clean and balanced, with good acidity and a nice mineral finish. There was nothing not to like. But, for me, it lacked depth and complexity. It didn't seem to express any individual character; in spite of the fact that Bossard makes three different Muscadets, one for each sub-soil (orthogneiss, gneiss and granite) extant on his vineyard property. I thought the wine was just okay. So I had a glass, put the uncorked bottle in the fridge and switched to beer.

My friend sent me a text on Sunday night. "Found that bottle of white you left in the fridge. Drank it with dinner. It was delicious!"

Scientifically, we cannot draw conclusions from the subjective appraisals of two different tasters. But it did make me wonder... Was it better? Had Bossard's Muscadet improved with two days in the air? Previously (see post), I had speculated that the chemical composition of Chenin Blanc might have something to do with the ability of certain Loire Valley white wines to improve with decanting and significant time exposed to air. But perhaps I've focused on the wrong variable? Perhaps this trait has
less to do with grape varietal, and more to do with biodyamic farming, or the micro-climates and soils of the Loire Valley?

Several good experiments come to mind to test this evolving hypothesis. I do have a few more bottles of Bossard's Muscadet to test with decanting and air. I need to find a good biodynamically produced white from somewhere outside the Loire Valley to use as a negative control. As luck would have it... I have one or two of those too.

But next up... Something ELSE from the Loire. Probably...

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