There’s a small group of wines I want to talk about with you. It’s a special sort of thing, and I’m not sure how you’ll receive it. But it’s uncommonly inspiring because it feels like a midpoint of sorts, where lovers of zippy, unoaked high-acid whites can find common ground with those who lean toward a more plush, comforting, oak-barrel-fermented style.

The wine is Muscadet. But wait, it’s not any old Muscadet. It’s properly old Muscadet. It’s older white wine than people usually seek out or accept. It’s Muscadet in four dimensions rather than three, Muscadet manifesting along the space-time continuum. Now that I’ve said that, I’m sure I’ll be receiving a high-paying job offer from the Muscadet Producers Federation Marketing Board; nothing sells wine like mention of space-time.

Anyway, yes, Muscadet ages. I’m even going to say that good Muscadet needs to age. We too often think of Muscadet as nothing but fresh, clean and briny at best, or watery and bland when (as is too often the case) it is produced on a relatively large, mechanized scale. The other misperception, based on an unfortunate conflation of nomenclature, is that Muscadet bears some sort of relation to moscato, the grape used to make sweet wines in Italy, or muscat or muskateller, the highly aromatic grape family prevalent in Swabia, Austria-Hungary and the Danube region.

No. Muscadet is the name of a wine made from a grape known as melon de bourgogne or, now that the Burgundians have grown offended at the relation and raised an official stink, melon B, or just melon. Muscadet is made in the extreme west of the Loire Valley, where the Atlantic Ocean begins its eastward route through the midsection of France. The riverbed is fossilized shells, the climate is maritime and the cuisine around the area’s biggest city, Nantes, is based on seafood. Thus, the cliché context for Muscadet is oysters, which, for a new-vintage Muscadet, are a nice match. An oyster doesn’t work very well with wines that carry a lot of fruit, and so saline, limpid Muscadet just sidles right up, a vinous mignonette. Sure, Muscadet and oysters: knock yourself out.

But something extraordinary happens to good Muscadet over time, a deus ex machina of presence and complexity you’d never have guessed would make an appearance. All of a sudden, there’s fruit, pear-like and round. Here, too, is amplitude, a softness and even viscosity you want to hold on your palate for 60 seconds before swallowing. It’s a dry wine, but there’s some sort of tempered, amber, fading-light hint of sweetness that comes up. What is going on here?

Harold McGee, François Chartier or some other informed food scientist might be able to tell me, but for now I prefer to bask in the mystery of it all. I’m drinking a Muscadet from 2009, and I don’t yet want to know how a wine that began so taut and mineral relaxed into something so voluptuous, semi-solid, like panna cotta or okra gelée. I just want to remain amazed.

The fruit character of old Muscadet is beguiling. I don’t yet have an analogy – it’s not the fruit-salady fruit of simple pinot grigio, not the aggressive grapefruit of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, nor the strange raisin and apple of chenin blanc; not the green apple of chardonnay that hasn’t undergone malolactic fermentation, nor the grilled pineapple of chardonnay that has.

This 2009 Muscadet’s fruit is savory, seamless, baked in. The wine’s remnant freshness and vitality are not from pronounced acidity, which long ago knit into the wine’s very fabric, but from that sea-borne minerality, which presents as a saltiness, the seasoning of the wine just as a pinch of sea salt seasons food. Therefore, I drink this Muscadet with somewhat hearty meals, the opposite of oysters: a tian of squash, white beans and kale; mashed parsnip and a pork chop with salsa verde; fried eggs over mushrooms. This Muscadet would do oblivious harm to food as defenseless as a dozen on the half-shell.

Obviously, not every Muscadet that spends years in bottle will develop all the interesting secondary and tertiary characteristics we’re seeking. Auspicious markers include old vines, but even more important is several years of aging on the lees before bottling (a process Muscadet is rightly famous for prolonging past when other regions quit, hence the frequent full name of Muscadet Sur Lie).

The Château La Gravelle Muscadet Monnières-Saint Fiacre 2009 ($18) ages for several years on its lees and then several more in the bottle, as this vintage is the current release. As with several older Muscadets I’ve enjoyed, what links the young versions to oysters manifests here in the flavors and silky sheen of shellfish broth: the legacy of the bivalve, transforming through time and temperature. Also, a fascinating grainy expression, as in rye crackers, buckwheat. Just 12 percent alcohol and under $20, it presents the complexity of a good Burgundy, chewy and spherical, though unaided by oak.

No other current-vintage Muscadets are available in these parts with that much age. However, poke around. The Drifter’s Wife, Portland’s new wine bar extension of the shop Maine & Loire, is pouring the 2011 Domaine de l’Ecu Muscadet Granite ($19 retail), an alternate reality of a wine from one of the Loire’s natural-wine pioneers, Guy Bossard and Fred Niger Van Herck. That shellfish broth trait is in the wine, along with Japanese notes of nori and umeboshi.

For several years I’ve bought Domaine de l’Ecu wines to age, and I continue to believe they offer one of the greatest values in the world for wines to lay down. My basement holds the 2009, 2010 and 2011, and now too the 2013 (currently available, $19) of one of their other single-soil wines, the Gneiss. (Each cru wine from the domaine is named after the subsoil that undergirds its particular vineyard plots; there’s tremendous geological diversity in the Western Loire.)

Though I don’t own past vintages, I am next to certain that the Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet “La Grange” Vielles Vignes 2013 ($16) will mature spectacularly over the next five to 12 years. Why? First of all, because the esteemed Luneau family asserts it, and if you delve online into their history and approach, you’ll find it hard to disagree. More empirically, well, I can just tell. It’s so savory, mineral and broad, starting to show the power and ambition beneath all that spicy, saline vigor. A baby now, it’s already tremendously rewarding. And if you take the time to raise that baby and support its natural inclinations, you’ll meet a wise, fully realized grown-up quite a ways down the road. Or on the astral plane.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

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