JWL Issue #075: Muscadet, Muscat - Understanding Wine Label Jargon

November 5, 2019

South London is spoilt for new wine bars at the moment. Peckham Cellars soft opens over the next week or so in Queen’s Road, and New Zealand Cellar’s Mel Brown has just opened the doors to The Laundry in Brixton.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the excellent Rubeno – a lagrein from Alto-Adige in northern Italy. This region itself a fascinating history, where German is the second official language. Lagrein is a grape there that is often heavily tannic. Here it came alive. The last four bottles are available for £64.

This week, I dive into a selection of jargon that always tripped me up due to the confusing names: the differences between Muscadet and muscat, and everything in between.


Szeremi Szerelem by Oszkar Maurer joins the ranks as one of the hardest wines to pronounce. Which meant I went straight for it when I saw it on the list at Sager + Wilde last week (£8 a glass). I wouldn’t be surprised if this was produced in qvevri. This had orange peel, hazelnuts, and honey in abundance. A moment of delight for a white that arrives like your favourite song coming on late at night. Origins seem hard to place. I made a note of Serbian, but some post-Googling indicates Hungary.

Chateau du Coing St Fiacre Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie (£15 from Le Bon Vin) is another delight, in an entirely different style. This is fruit forward with limes, peaches and apples singing in harmony.

And finally, Journey’s End Kendal Lodge (£8 from M&S) is exactly what you want from a midweek red to drink while watching TV. The cabernet sauvignon feels dominant with tannic but slightly sweet blackcurrant as the primary aroma. But the cabernet franc reveals itself in the after taste as bell pepper and its greener side sings.


Muscadet? Muscat? Melon de Bourgogne? In the Loire?

French labels can be a mind field at the best of times, but this string I always found especially confusing. Here’s the top jargon to look out for with these wines.

Muscadet: a dry white wine produced in the Loire Valley. It has three typical sub appellations: Sèvre et Maine, Coteaux de la Loire, and Côtes de Grandlieu.

Sur lie: adds additional appellation requirements. The wine must come from one of the three main sub appellations; it must have spent the winter on the lees; it cannot be bottled before the third weekend in March; finally, the lees cannot be filtered or racked. An unfiltered wine by appellation control, I believe is rare!

Melon de Bourgogne: a grape, which once came from Burgundy but was destroyed there in the 18th century. Grown in America too, it is most famous in Muscadet, where it is often referenced simply as ‘melon.’

Muscat: a separate grape, which rarely for wine actually tastes a bit of grapes. It’s called moscatel in Spain and moscato in Italy (note moscato d'asti), where it’s not most popularly recognised as a slightly fizzy sweet wine.

Like what you read?

Melon de Bourgogne, Loire Valley Wines

Muscat, Jancis Robinson

Thanks for signing up!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.