I cannot believe the speed at which autumn has arrived.
The mornings have that cool, crisp freshness about them and the days are discernibly shorter.
Like most people I’m sorry to see the end of summer but I am a lover of the seasons and look forward to what’s new to appreciate.
It’s hard to imagine shellfish having seasons but they do and September through to March is peek season for the humble mussel; one of my all-time favourite foods. How can you resist a food that is so simple to cook, is crying out to be eaten with your fingers and which is comparatively cheap to buy?
Now, if you were in Belgium your Moules Frites would probably come with some local beer, whilst the French prefer to serve this classic dish with a glass of wine. The Loire Valley’s Muscadet remains the top-choice for many and why not?
There’s a peculiar and, frankly incomprehensible, resistance to Muscadet. I know there are some bland versions about but as with anything you’ll be rewarded for taking the time to hunt out the good ones.
I first visited Château de Cléray some 15 years ago and it turned out to be an eye-opening experience.Here was an estate producing top-end Muscadet, some of which were capable of bottle-ageing. They were mineral-like, salty with well-defined angular fruit.
I feel in love there and then and have been a fan ever since. Their Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sûr Lie Haute Culture 2010 can be found online at www.allaboutwine.co.uk for £11.49 a bottle. A very fine choice to ‘posh-up’ your mussels.
Another winning partner (made in a costal region like Muscadet) is the Portuguese Vinho Verde. All that sprightly green fruit with that touch of pétillance is a fun way to resist the onset of cooler months to come. Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2010 (£6.92 www.waitrosewine.com) is an easy-to-find option and never disappoints.
Slightly pricier but, I think worth it, is the Wine Society’s Quinta do Ameal Vinho Verde (£11.50 www.thewinesociety.com) which has slightly more generous fruit and a bit more weight; perhaps a more satisfying autumnal choice.
As a Scot, I am proud that Scottish mussels are amongst some of the very best you will ever eat but one of my finest memories is of eating New Zealand mussels on the west coast of the South Island in the tiniest restaurant, watching the sun set over the Tasman Sea.
I can recall the taste of those mussels and that view as if it was yesterday but, to my eternal shame, I cannot remember the wine that I drank, other than it was Sauvignon Blanc (of course!).
If I were ever able to recreate that moment I would choose the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc (£12.95 www.thewinesociety.com) that is made by a viticulturalist and winemaker who were previously with Cloudy Bay. Having a touch of barrel-ageing it is a richer, more textured Sauvignon. It’s an impressive glass of wine and I think if you’re going to add a little cream to your mussels then this could be the wine for you.