Melon de Bourgogne (known simply as Melon in the United States) is the white grape synonymous with the Muscadet appellation in the western Loire Valley. The variety has naturally high acidity, but can struggle to achieve good concentration of flavors. The best wines show apple and citrus flavors, with mineral characteristics. A saltiness can sometimes identified, suggestive of the region’s maritime history.
Muscadet, the most famous varietal expression of Melon de Bourgogne, has been an important wine-growing area since antiquity. Melon de Bourgogne was introduced to the region in 1709 after a vicious winter killed many of the Loire’s vines, around the same time it was expelled from its home in Burgundy. What the Dukes of Burgundy regarded as an over-productive variety of little viticultural interest, growers in the Loire saw as a cold-resistant answer to their troubles.
In the vineyard, Melon de Bourgogne buds early and vigorously, meaning that even in the event of spring frosts a second budding is still capable of producing a reasonable yield. Its major vulnerability is its susceptibility to mildew, though this affliction is more common in warm, humid environments, and Melon de Bourgogne is a cold-climate grape.
In the winery, the fashion is to subject the best Melon de Bourgogne grapes to extended lees contact and barrel maturation. This results in wines of greater depth, texture and complexity, however it is a more expensive process than the fresh-and-ready style, and this is reflected in the wine’s price.
In the 20th Century Melon de Bourgogne was misidentified in the US and Australia as Pinot Blanc, and the Californian plantings of Melon de Bourgogne were subsequently removed in favor of more commercially appealing varieties. A little Melon de Bourgogne is grown in Oregon and Washington.
Synonyms include: Melon, Muscadet.
Food matches include:
Europe: Saint-Jacques à la Bretonne (scallops cooked in white wine and garlic, finished with Armagnac); Sainte-Maure de Touraine goats’ cheese with rocket salad
Asia: Green papaya salad (som tum)
Americas: Parmesan gratinated scallops (conchitas a la parmesana)
Africa/Middle East: Middle Eastern lemon lentil soup (adas bil hamod)