Brittany may not be one of France’s major wine-producing areas, but it is closely associated with Muscadet, an aromatic white that many consider to be a Breton wine, even if it is also is produced in the Loire Valley near the city of Nantes.
Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, it is one of the only wines whose appellation is derived from the characteristic of the wine rather than the region or variety of grape. In fact, muscadet literally means “muskiness” even if wine experts note that today’s muscadets are not particularly musky. While in France, make sure to sample a bottle or two from one of the main appellations. These are:
• Muscadet-Sevre et Maine
• Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire
• Muscadet-Cotes de Grandlieu
They tend to be dry and crisp wines that are nonetheless fruity, and as such, make an excellent accompaniment to shellfish. This is not surprising considering that Brittany has a rich heritage of producing world-class seafood. For a real treat, enjoy a bottle of chilled muscadet with some fresh-caught oysters.
Don’t worry if wine isn’t your thing though. As Heart of Brittany notes, the region’s real speciality is cider, which is produced in two main variants – still or sparkling. If you want to drink it as the Bretons do, then be prepared, it tends to be subbed from a bowl. As well as apple cider, pear ciders are also popular. One local delicacy, Pommeau of Britanny, is an aged and blended mix of local cider brandy and fresh apple juice that is generally consumed as an aperitif.
Another exclusive of the region is Lambig, a distilled spirit made from Breton cider. In the rest of France, this is known as eau de vie, or ‘water of life’ for the non French-speaking among you. This can be pricey as cider producers in the region are only permitted to make small amounts of the potent beverage, but it is well worth a tipple, especially if you’re visiting during the colder months of the year.
One last local treat is Chouchen, an alcoholic drink that is made from a blend of honey, water and fresh apple juice that is then left to ferment into something that is really rather unique. Traditionally it is mixed with cider. Otherwise, make sure to chill it and drink it neat as an aperitif or digestif.
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