The Muscat grape is the world’s oldest known grape variety.
It likely originated in Greece but maybe – just maybe? – it came from Muscat, the capital and largest city in the Governorate of Oman in the south-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula.
After being discovered and popularized by a generation of rap and hip-hop artists, today’s most commonly available Muscat (…or Moscato) wines are made in an off dry style, sometimes even sweet.
First stop on the seriously-popular but much-maligned Moscato trail has to be Barefoot Moscato (434431) $9.99 from California’ E & J Gallo. Luscious peach and apricot aromas and flavours ride a bright base of citrus undernotes. But yeah, it’s a little on the sweeter side…
Of course, in the sensitive world of fine wines, being sweet is often considered a fault, by the wine police – unless the wine in question is a deliberately very sweet dessert wine. Everyday folks who just like a nice glass of white with a touch of sweet grapey fruit flavour might disagree.
Concha Y Toro is a multilayered and many labelled Chilean wine conglomerate. Their Frontera brand is hoping to crack the lucrative millennial market with the launch of a new ‘After Dark’ range, tailoring its labels to suit this demographic’s tastes. These guys know what young wine lovers like!
Frontera’s After Dark Moonlight White (248039) $9.99 is an off-dry white wine made from 85 per cent Moscato grapes, with a splash of other white grapes for balance. Aromas of fresh sliced apples lead into floral notes and hints of honey. Apple pie and honeyed melon flavours fill its flavour spectrum.
Trapping that seductively sweet grape flavoured fruitiness in the wine often means halting the fermentation before it would finish naturally. The resulting wines are usually much lower in alcohol than we have come to expect.
More off-dry – just a little less sweet? – Jacob’s Creek Moscato (400267) $11.49 is perennial crowd pleasing white from Australia. Slightly fizzy, fully fruited, it offers up fabulously floral peach and orange rind aromas and tiptoes through hints of lime and even mint before finishing back in the sweet peach flavour zone.
Known as ‘Muscat à Petits Grains’ in France, Moscato is the Italian name. Grown in the hilltop town of Asti in Piedmont, Italy, Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti (400382) $19.35/375ml is a half bottle of intense peach and apricot aromas and flavours in a gently sparkling white wine. Decidedly off-dry in style, pair this delicate white with cheesecake or crème caramel desserts.
Here in British Columbia a few winemakers have been exploring the possibilities of Muscat. Despite the diversity in the Muscat family – Ottonel, Petit Grains, Alexandria, Giallo – one common trait that can be seen in most all Muscat members is the characteristic floral, ‘grapey’ aroma note that is caused by the high concentration of monoterpenes in these wine grapes.
From Bordertown Vineyards in Osoyoos in the south Okanagan Valley Bordertown Muscat (991547) $20.95 comes from limited plantings on their family estate. The aroma is typically ‘grapey’, with fabulously fruity flavours of pineapple, peach and even hints of mandarin orange. Addictive stuff!
Three distinctly different varieties of Muscat go into Bench 1775 Muscat (744201) $20.99 which is then fermented to fully dry. Elegantly balanced in what has become the 1775 style, it incorporates 15 per cent Riesling for complexity and moves through dry honeyed nectarine fruit with notes of jasmine and sage.
Created and nurtured in the Loire Valley of France in the 1850s Muscat Ottonel is a cross of the Swiss wine grape Chasselas and Muscat d’Eisenstadt (also known as Muscat de Saumur). Hillside Winery Muscat Ottonel (434803) $23.95 comes from estate vines planted by Bohumir and Vera Klokocka in 1984. Dense, intense, remarkably rich!
Whistle clean and rapier sharp, Joie Farm ‘The Pure Grape’ Muscat (167239) $24.35 comes from 2 acres of estate grown Moscato Giallo – the Italian version of this chameleon of a grape – aka Yellow Muscat. High-toned apple blossom and peach aromatics make this white smell much sweeter than it tastes. Thrilling juicy citric acidity gets the mouth watering wildly on every sip – lemon, lime and grapefruit notes just keep on coming.
Sweet or dry, there’s a version of this thrilling white wine to suit every white wine lover’s tastes.
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