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Muscadet is Not Muscat, Garbure Bigourdane, and (Our Version of) Faire Chabròl #Winophiles

The French Winophiles will be taking a Loire Valley (virtual) vacation with Jill of L'Occasion is hosting. You can read her invitation here.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join our live Twitter chat on Saturday, 15 August 2020 at 8am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #Winophiles and be sure to add that to anything you tweet so that we can see it. In the meantime, these articles will go live between Friday, 14 August and early Saturday, 15 August...

Muscadet is Not Muscat

So, let's begin with some basics. Muscadet (pronounced “muss-kuh-day”) is an appellation in the western Loire Valley, arround Nantes. And it's the name covering the white wines made from the Melon de Bourgogne (or simply Melon) grape, the varietal that was traditionally just called Muscadet.

Now I am going to share the first thing that I learned when this exploration began: Musadet is not Muscat. Whoops. I've had that wrong, in my head, for years!

Muscadet is a bone-dry, light-bodied white wine; muscat is often a dessert treat. And where Muscat is often boldly sweet, Muscadet is almost completely savory with notes of saline and minerality. Many discount the wine as completely neutral, but I think it's just less flamboyant and more subtly strong. That is something that I adore in a white wine.

I noticed on  my bottle "sur lie" [top photo] and did some reading about that. That refers to the process of aging wines on suspended inert yeast particles, called lees, and renders a wine almost lager-like with a creamy texture and rich flavor. The longer a wine is on the lees, the more yeasty it becomes. Most winemakers age their wines like this for 2 to 3 years.

Given our shelter-in-place orders, going on twenty-two weeks here on California's central coast, I have been souring my wines mostly online. I was able to track down this bottle of Delhommeau Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Cuvee St Vincent 2018 at for less about $18.

This wine was a delight from start to finish for us. It offered complex aromas of citrus and herbs - more lime than lemon and notes of lemon verbena which added an alluring floral quality to the wine. On the palate there was bracing acidity that was tempered by ripe melon and citrus that makes the nose. This had a pleasing heft and a beautifully long finish. What a wine!

Garbure Bigourdane

When I was looking for a French dish with which to pair my bottle of Muscadet, I came across mentions of Garbure Bigourdane, a rustic, soupy casserole typical of the region of Gascony. The word 'garbure'  simply means ‘made with lots of different vegetables’ and varies from village to village and with the seasons, but the core ingredients are the same: green cabbage and beans. Usually there's duck in there, too, but as my husband is plant-based during the week, I skipped the duck. We'll try that another time.

I was inspired by two things: my Yellow Eye beans from Rancho Gordo and the technique of affixing bay leaves to an onion with cloves! I love learning new things and this imparted a great, warming aroma to the resulting stew. Delicious.


  • 2 cups dried beans (I used Yellow Eye beans from Rancho Gordo)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 medium head cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 cups scrubbed and diced potatoes (I used Yukon gold)
  • 1 organic onion, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 to 6 cloves
  • 6 to 8 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • freshly ground salt, as needed
  • freshly ground pepper, as needed
  • Also needed: 1/4 cup red wine per person for serving


Put the beans in a pot and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let the beans soak overnight. The following morning, drain the beans and set aside.

Affix two bay leaves to the peeled onion; I used three cloves per leaf. Set aside.

In a large soup pot (I used a Dutch oven), heat the oil until shimmering. Add in the carrots, celery, garlic, and cabbage. Cook until slightly softened, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beans and potatoes to the pot. Pour in the liquid (water, stock, and/or wine) and gently place the bay leaf-studded onion in the soup.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are cooked, approximately 90 minutes. At this point you can let it cool and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors fully meld. Reheat gently before serving. Or you can serve it immediately, but be sure to enjoy the leftover the next day!

Faire Chabròl

But, one thing you must do if you want to keep it traditional is that you must finish your own bowl of Garbure by pouring some red wine into it. I read that Chabro, or Chabròl, means ‘drunken broth’. When in Rome...of Gascony, in this case.

And that's a wrap on my Loire Valley exploration for this month's French Winophiles. Next month I will be hosting the group as we explore Côtes du Rhône wines. Look for an invitation shortly. Cheers!


  1. I just added this post to our camping recipes for the fall. Can you imagine how good this will be made over a campfire? Delish! And I will be ordering this wi e too!

    1. That sounds amazing! And be sure to add in a ham hock! That's traditional, but my husband doesn't eat meat during the week. So, I did without. Boo.

  2. "savory with notes of saline and minerality" with this description I want more than ever to try Muscadet. I love savory white wines. Sounds like the one you found was delicious.

  3. Your description of lees, "...renders a wine almost lager-like with a creamy texture and rich flavor" is perfect for these sur lie wines and for some amber wines. Did the bay leaf stay fixed to the onion at the end of cooking? That inspires me too!

  4. I'm very curious about the bay leaf and cloves in the onion. Sounds divine. I also can't believe Terri is making that while camping. Your sur lees description was spot on. Cheers

  5. Your Faire Chabròl looks delicious and comforting. I will put that aside for an early fall recipe to try!
    As to the Muscadet...while I know that it is not sweet, my brain too always goes first to Muscat. This is a region I have not tasted from very much. With the minerality in these wines, they seem perfect for summer. I will add them to my list!

  6. It's been forever since I've opened a Muscadet and now I'm really eager to return to this old friend. Reminds me of the sea.

  7. A neat trick, pinning bay leaves to an onion with a few spikes of clove! I love soupy dishes like this one and can't wait to try it.

    1. Sorry - this is Lauren. Not sure why I'm anonymous here. :-)

  8. I can't tell you how many times I've had the Muscadet/Muscat conversation with people when I worked at the wine store -- you're definitely not alone. The dish look delicious!


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