If your trusted retailer is sold out of Instagram-worthy Forty Ounce Muscadet, here's a little trade secret: the wine inside is fresh and satisfying no matter what kind of packaging it comes in. In fact, Muscadet has been championed by sommeliers for years now not only as a classic pairing for oysters (or any bright and briny shellfish dish) but as a mineral-laden white of a quality high enough to rival the likes of Sancerre and Chablis. And a growing number of the region's finest examples are turning up in the U.S.
Muscadet country is known locally as the 'Pays Nantais'—the vineyard area surrounding the town of Nantes, where the Loire River dovetails into the Atlantic Ocean. There, the Melon de Bourgogne grape reigns supreme; it's what all Muscadet wines are made from. For decades, the category suffered from a reputation as saltwatery plonk, since many producers placed quantity over quality and sterile filtered their wines as they rushed them into bottle. These mass-market versions still abound, but a pioneering group of growers are paying close attention to their farming, emphasizing their unique set of soils and aging their wines the traditional way: sur lie (on the spent yeast cells that result from fermentation).
Another reason to try Muscadet this summer? Despite the surge in quality, prices have remained remarkably low. They're wines for the people. Zesty and thirst quenching yet complex enough to impress your wine-snobbiest friend. And most go for $20 or under.