Melon de Bourgogne to be produced in Australia

The interesting things in life always happen on the frontiers. After one and a half centuries of having our wine culture dominated by French wine varieties we are now facing a minor invasion of Italian varieties. But the French could be fighting back.

Garry Crittenden is an acknowledged pioneer of Italian grape varieties in Australia. He was the first to grow Italian varieties on the Mornington Peninsula. His "I" label wines, some made from Mornington Peninsula wines and some made from fruit from the King Valley, have helped to bring awareness of Italian varieties to Australian drinkers.

He has just regained control of the winery which was formerly known as Dromana Estate. It is now called Crittenden at Dromana. The old Dromana Estate company is now operating at a new site in nearby Tuerong.

One of the labels of Crittenden at Dromana is Pinocchio. There is a great Sangiovese and an absolutely stunning Arneis. Under the Shinus label Crittenden makes a very good Pinot gris.

But the big news is that Garry is planning to release a 2004 Melon de Bourgogne. It is still on the lees, but will bottled for the summer. This is the variety used to make the wonderful dry white wine Muscadet sur lie in the region around Nantes at the mouth of the Loire River in France.

Let's clear up a few confusions about Muscadet. It is a style of wine rather than a grape variety. It is not related to Muscat, the variety often used to make sweet wines. It does make dry white wine which actually tastes like it is made from grapes. Unfortunately many people confuse fruit flavours in wine, particularly white wine, for sweetness. But Muscadets are dry. Trust me. They are a great choice to accompany seafood.

The 'sur lie' in the name refers to the unusual method of making Muscadet. It literally means 'on the lees' and the method involves allowing the wine to remain in contact with the lees after fermentations, allowing greater extraction of flavouring agents. The lees consist of dead yeast cells, stems, seeds, bits of skin and other dregs that fall to the bottom of the fermentation tank.

Melon is also a rare variety in the US. Mike Lempriere, Melon enthusiast and proprietor of Perennial Vintners in Washigton State, maintains a small but impressive website at which covers the situation in US.

As far as I know nobody else is trying this Variety in Australia. The reason why I am excited about it is that Muscadet sur lie is one of my favourite French tipples. And Garry Crittenden has the innovative flair and skills to make something special of the variety and the style in Australia. Garry has promised to let me know when the 2004 Melon is released.

This article first appeared in the October edition of the Vinodiversity Newsletter. You can subscribe, for free here

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