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Jan 6, 2020

To kick off 2020, we have the original wine grape, the one from which so many were derived: MUSCAT! In the show we discuss the three main types of Muscat and the wines and regions that you need to seek out to get a taste of this ancient, delicious, complex grape. 

As M.C. Ice requests in the middle of the show...here are the notes! 

What is Muscat? Overview

  • A grape from which derives a complicated family of grapes that includes over 200 varieties of all colors
  • It was most likely a Greek grape, brought to the south of France and Sicily by the Phoenicians
  • It's known for its floral perfume and grapey flavor. The grape is spicy with orange notes, and has relatively low acidity
  • Styles range from dry to late harvest to fortified to sparkling
  • Berries are gold, pink, or black and the variation within vines, mean flavors can vary

 

The main types of Muscat:

1. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is the oldest grape

  • Needs a long growing season, disease prone, doesn’t like humidity
  • The most refined, classic Muscat, it is small berried, with a delicate but layered aroma
  • Also known as: Moscato Bianco, came to Italy in the 1300s
  • Common grapes derived from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains: Moscato Giallo, Aleatico (red), Mammolo (red)

 

2.  Muscat of Alexandria

  • Natural cross of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Axina de Tres Bias, old black table grape grown on Sardegna, Malta, Greek Islands
  • Not from Alexandria in Egypt! 
  • Mid budding, late ripening, likes heat, big bunches, big berries, great for heat. Susceptible to powdery mildew, bunch rot, bugs, good with drought
  • Less refined than Muscat à Petits Grains: sweet but not complex, less subtle – more geranium notes. Makes sticky sweet wines, rose- or orange-like or like geranium and lily of the valley
  • Also known as Zibbibo in Sicily. 
  • Related grapes:  Catarratto Bianco (Etna), Grillo (Sicily), Bombino Bianco (Sicily, Southern Italy), Schiava Grossa, Malvasia del Lazio, Cereza (Argentina), Torrontés (both clones)

3. Muscat Ottonel: 

  • Bred in Loire in 1852, earliest ripener, planted in Alsace often  paler, with less aroma than the other varieties -- which can produce a softer wine

4. Muscat of Hamburg

  • Black, table grape, low quality in Eastern Europe

 

Muscat in the Vineyard: 

  • Hard to grow: Crops erratically, low acidity, can be a tough blender
  • Pink, black, red mutations exist around the world
  • Early budding, mid ripening, susceptible to powdery mildew, botrytis, mites, small berries
  • Climate: Prefers warm Mediterranean climates – south of France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Australia
  • Soils: Different types will yield different flavors. Limestone or calcareous rock, along with sand make lighter, fresher versions.  Clays, granites, can yield richer versions. 
  • If the grape is overcropped it loses acidity and aroma and is a boring mess. 

 

Muscat by Place: 

France

  • 18,829 acres in France/7620 ha
  • Almost all Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
  • Rhône: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (fortified)
  • Roussillon & Languedoc: Vins doux Naturels of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains in Frontignan, Lunel, Mireval, St. Jean de Minervois
    • Rivesaltes: Vin doux Naturel of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains blended with Muscat d'Alexandria in Rivesaltes
    • Clairette de Die Sparkling of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
  • Corsica: fortified wines
  • Alsace: Muscat Ottonel and Muscat à Petits Grains. Wines are floral, fresh, grapey, and herbal with spice. Dry. 

 

Italy 

  • 32,816 acres/13280 ha – Mostly Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
  • Piemonte: sweet, Asti Spumante (sparkling), Moscato d’Asti (semi sparkling, sweet, good dessert or cheese wine)
  • Trentino Alto Adige: Use Rosenmuskateller: variation of the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains -- rose aroma, still wine, Moscato Giallo/Goldmuskateller: orange scented dry or sweet wines
  • Valle d’Aosta: Passito style (grapes dried on mats in the sun, raisined and then pressed)
  • Montalcino:  DOC for dry, sparkling, sweet, late-harvest wines of Muscat
  • Sicily: Zibbibo/Muscat of Alexandria for dry wines, Moscato di Pantelleria – passito style from a small historic island. 

 

Spain 

  • Grown all over Spain as Moscatel –Moscatel d’Alejandria
  • Málaga: sweet speciality of the south
  • Jerez/Sherry:  Moscatel used for color and sweetness, can be made alone as a sweet, passito style wine

 

Portugal

  • Small amount used in white Port and other fortified wines
  • Setúbal makes a fortified wine from it, tasty dry wines 

 

Other Old World places: Germany, Austria, Greece

 

Australia

  • Rutherglen and Glenrowan in northeastern Victoria
  • Rutherglen Muscat: Four tier quality system -- basic, classic, grand, rare. Like figs, coffee, blackberry, chocolate, delicious, with acidity

 

South Africa

  • Vin de Constance from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains: Late harvest
    • Probably the descendents of the famed vines of  colonial days in the 1600s 
  • Worcester, Olifants River: Muscat of Alexandria/ Hanepoot for bulk, used for dry, sweet, fortified, table grapes

 

US: Central Valley for bulk white. Some Orange Muscat which is a relative of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains

 

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