If you want a glimpse of life in France without paying for the trip, it's time to get acquainted with Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine, Wine Wisdom columnist Donnie Austin says.

Want a glimpse of life in France without paying for the trip? It's time to get acquainted with Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine.

Muscadet is a white wine from the Loire Valley, centered on the town of Nantes in Northwest France, where the Loire River opens into the Atlantic Ocean. You see a lot of wines labeled by region (Old World Europe) or grape (New World, such as the Americas and Australia), but Muscadet is both the region and grape, with the Sevre-et-Maine subregion considered the higher quality option.

Muscadet shouldn't be confused with grapes with similar spellings, like Muscat, Moscato, Muscadine or Muscadelle (tongue tied yet?), but it's also known as Melon de Bourgogne. I like to call it summer in a bottle. Muscadet is a lighter bodied white that's often paired with fresh, raw oysters and mussels by the French, and I encourage you to try the pairing yourself. With the proximity to the ocean, a lot of shells have found their way into the soils of the region, giving the wine a streak of mineral notes that enhances the wine and shellfish pairing. A summer salad with a tangy vinaigrette works beautifully, as well.

One wine I recommend from this region is the Chateau la Noe Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine ($11.99 a bottle). You get notes of mineral and fresh-squeezed lemon. The amount of acidity makes it food-friendly and you can detect it when you get a pucker in your mouth and salivate, like squeezing a drop of lemon juice on your tongue. This wine is also aged in old oak barrels "sur lies," or "on the lees," with the dead yeast cells giving it a softer texture and a touch of creaminess to balance out the acidity and add complexity.
Gather some family, friends, oysters and Muscadet, and you'll get to Nantes and back without leaving your deck.

Donnie Austin is owner of House Wine www.housewine.biz in Worthington