Muscadet: A Best Value Summer White Wine

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On a conference call with New York and Chicago last week, my colleagues were surprised to learn that it's already hitting 90 degrees Fahrenheit here along the Gulf Coast. They're still wearing evening sweaters, they said. I'm already in flip-flops and bathing trunks (even though we don't have a pool).

With the arrival of warmer weather, my wife and I are craving spicier foods, like one of our favorite summer dishes (above), Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and chili flakes), prepared by gently sautéeing crushed garlic cloves and chili flakes in extra-virgin olive oil and then tossing al dente spaghetti in the fiery, garlic-infused oil.

And although reds certainly don't disappear from our dinner table during summer (after all, I still need my Produttori del Barbaresco 2010 Langhe Nebbiolo for around $20 with my black and blue sirloin burger), we definitely drink more low-alcohol white wine than any other once Memorial Day has come and gone.

At our house, the go-to label is the Luneau Papin Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Clos Des Allées, made from Melon de Bourgogne grapes grown on the west coast of France -- the tip of the Loire Valley. (You can find it at Spec's and Richard's for around $16 but be sure that you get the 2009 bottling, the current vintage in our market; if you see 2008 on the floor of the shop, ask a sales person to check and see if they have the 2009 in the back.)

When vinified in a traditional style like the Luneau Papin, Muscadet will have the mineral notes that we look for in our white wines and its gentle aromatic character will help to tame the heat of summer foods, like shredded chicken and poblano pepper tacos that my wife Tracie P made for us last Friday.

The best news about Muscadet -- beyond the fact that it is the classic pairing for raw oysters -- is that it's pretty hard to find a bad one in the bunch and that many labels are available in our market for under $15 (you can even find some at around $10 a bottle).

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