2011 France Loire Valley Melon de Bourgogne

Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe.

Within France, the one region most closely associated with fine white and rosé wines is surely the Loire Valley. With over eight controlled appellations, and a relatively large expanse of land covering this wide valley, the Loire Valley is an ideal location for wineries wishing to produce large quantities of excellent quality vines for their wine production. Indeed, this region has been associated with excellent white wines for over a thousand years, with it once being the favorite wine region for the crowned heads of England, France and beyond. Today, it produces a wide range of white wines, and several rosé and red varieties also. It is also widely celebrated for being home to some of France's most lively and fruity sparkling crémant wines, which more than match those produced in nearby Champagne.

One of the more unusual French grape varietals, Melon de Bourgogne has been grown in and around the Loire Valley for several hundred years. In fact, this grape was first planted in the Loire region of Pays Nantais back in the mid 17th century, after a devastating frost decimated most of the red grapes which were typical in the area. The winemakers of Pays Nantais were keen to cultivate vines which were hardy, high yielding, and capable of surviving another such frost, and so turned their attention to Melon de Bourgogne for this very reason. The native home of the varietal is actually in Burgundy, where it is still grown to a lesser extent.

Because Melon de Bourgogne produces naturally heavy yields, the vintners of Pays Nantais go to great lengths to reduce the amount of fruit the vines bear. This allows the finest characteristics of the grape to come forward, and also opens up the opportunity for it to express the wonderful granite and schist soils in which the vines are grown. Melon de Bourgogne is a minerally white wine grape varietal, with a very subtle set of fruit flavors. It is prized for its freshness and brightness, and is seeing a revival in the twenty first century as an excellent wine for pairing with a wide range of foods.