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Muscat is an aromatic variety of wine grapes that is low on acidity, full in body, and is made in a variety of styles, ranging from still to sparkling and dry to very sweet. It is cultivated in a few places around the world that have a very traditional approach to winemaking. It actually represents part of the historical traditions of certain wines from these regions.
Known as Moscato in Italian, this is one of the oldest varieties of wine grapes in the world.
The wines made from these grapes are meant to be consumed young and fresh. They have little to no ageing potential due to their low acidity. The one exception here is a fortified Muscat called Rutherglen Muscat. Coming from Rutherglen town of Australia’s Victoria region, this wine is made from Muscat grape varietals and can be aged for a minimum of five years.
Some producers also use the solera system (commonly used for Sherry) to age their wine. This is a fractional blending system, in which they remove the wine from their oldest barrel, known as the solera, add wine from the second oldest barrel, called the first criadera, to whatever remains in the oldest barrel. The remaining wine in the second cidera then receives wine from the third oldest barrel- second criadera and so on. So while criaderas continue to accumulate over the years, the bottom solera vat is consistently aged at the end of every ageing cycle.
Rutherglen Muscat has intense flavours of raisin, sultana, other dried and candied fruit coupled with notes of caramel,dark chocolate and cinnamon. As the wine ages, it accumulates tertiary notes of nuts like walnut, hazelnut and macadamia as well as toffee and brown sugar.
Muscat needs a long growing season due to its tendency to bud early and ripen relatively late, especially in cooler climates. The grape is prone to mildew diseases and thus needs thorough canopy management practices.
From the Alto Adige region in Italy and Alsace in France and Germany, you get a drier and simpler style of Muscat. These still wines are straightforward and fruity wines, giving aromas and flavours of peaches, grapes and spices.
Fun Wine Fact: Semillon, often overshadowed by its more famous counterparts, is a white grape with a hidden talent. While it may not hog the spotlight, it plays a crucial role in creating some of the world's finest dessert wines, lending its unique character to Sauternes and other lusciously sweet concoctions.
A sweeter sparkling style of Muscat is made in the Asti region of Piedmont, in northwestern Italy and it is called Moscato d'Asti. The wine has a distinct floral aroma due to the presence of an aromatic compound called linalool. This compound is also found in basil, lavender, and cinnamon.
This is a sweet, lightly frothy and low-alcohol wine that is meant to be consumed young and fresh as it doesn’t go through any oak ageing. It expresses wonderful grapey aromas and flavours that are highly enjoyable on the palate.
Muscat has been one of the most widely-planted white wine varieties in France. It is mostly grown in southern wine regions of France like Beaumes-de-Venise, Rivesaltes and Frontignan. These days, Alsace Muscat wines are largely made from a variant of the grape called Muscat Ottonel.
Some other notable Old World producers of the grape variety are Germany, Austria, Spain and Greece.
From the Rutherglen region of Australia comes the Rutherglen Muscat- an intensely sweet wine with almost 200 grams/ litre residual sugar in a bottle. Rutherglen is renowned as a Muscat specialist region and produces some of the world's finest sweet-fortified Muscat wines with a warm amber colour to them. Typically, the Rutherglen Muscat wine has a full body, expressing a lot of viscosity on the palate and is mostly paired with desserts and sweets.
Serving Temperature – 7 to 10 degrees Celsius
Glassware - Standard white wine glass
Since Muscat is highly aromatic, it pairs well with foods that are equally aromatic and intensely flavoured. However, the sparkling styles of wine go better with lighter foods like nuts, salads, and raw seafood. Save the sweeter styles of this wine for cakes and cheeses.
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Originally published 19th September, 2023
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