Synonymous with joy and vivacity, Muscadet is aptly named: the very word resonates with merriment. This is one of the reasons that the vibrant wines of Muscadet are known the world over today.
However, the origins of Muscadet remain somewhat elusive. Most likely it was first produced in the Middle Ages, when Muscat wines from Cyprus were the most highly sought after by great monarchs and considered the most prestigious by feudal lords. Throughout history Muscadet appeared in other wine regions in France but never took on the significance or fame that it has enjoyed in the Nantes wine region, which was ultimately named after it.
The grapevine was planted in the Nantes region by the Romans as early as the first century B.C. The vineyard spread quickly with the rise of Christianity, which not only required wine for the sacrament but also to fulfill obligations of hospitality. In the sixth century, Saint Martin founded an abbey in Vertou (adjacent to Nantes), where he planted grapevines, creating the foundation for the wine region south of the Loire. But the Barbarian Invasions, mostly by the Normans and the Bretons, prevented the grapevine from developing in peace. In 843, the Normans set fire to Nantes, burning its grapevines to the ground. But they would once again thrive as early as the tenth century. In 1066, the monks of the Vertou Abbey instituted tithing on grapevines recently planted in Le Pallet and built a dam on the Sèvre that facilitated wine transport by river. The “Chaussée des Moines” dam that allowed the region’s wines to make a name for themselves beyond its borders still exists to this day.
Thanks to trade with Dutch negociants, Muscadet spread rapidly, and the region’s identity was forged around the Melon de Bourgogne. After surviving the phylloxera outbreak, quality improved as the vineyards adopted new technologies. And as transport improved and tourism blossomed, the region’s wine gained in popularity, first nationally, and then internationally. Muscadet is one of the oldest French Appellations d’Origine. In 1936, the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO), created the previous year, officially recognized the appellations of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine and Muscadet Coteaux-de-la-Loire. Muscadet was officially recognized the following year, in 1937.
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