Wednesday, June 24, 2009


One of the most interesting things I learned while studying for my CSW test (besides the fact that the study guide is in desperate need of updating) is that the Muscat grape is thought to be the ancestor to ALL grape varieties, not just white grapes, but ALL grapes. Very cool to know that this wonderfully aromatic, seductively sweet grape has mutated into different forms over time, transforming into the powerful Cabernet Sauvignon, the tannic Nebbiolo, the elegant Pinot Noir, and the vibrantly clean Gruner Veltliner to name just a few of the thousands of varieties out there.

There are several varieties of Muscat:

1. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (also known as Muscat Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Frontignan, Moscato Bianco, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat d’Alsace, Muskateller, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Moscatel Rosé, Sárgamuskotály, and Yellow Muscat.

2. Moscato Giallo (also called Goldmuskateller).
3. Moscato Rosa (also called Rosemuskateller).

4. Moscatel de Setúbal and Moscatel de Favaios

5. Muscat of Alexandria (also called Moscatel, Moscatel Romano, Moscatel de Málaga, Muscat Gordo Blanco, Hanepoot, Lexia, Gordo and Zibibbo).

6. Muscat Ottonel (also called Moskately).

7. Black Muscat (also known as Muscat Hamburg, Moscato di Amburgo).

8. Orange Muscat.
9. Muscat Crocant.

10. Moravian Muscat.

Muscat grapes are used for table wines, sparkling wines (as in Moscato d’Asti, made with the Muscat Canelli grape), dessert wines and fortified wines (like the Moscatel de Setúbal from Portugal), as well as Brandies and liqueurs (such as the Pisco from Peru and Chile, and Metaxa from Greece).

Muscat grapes have high concentrations of flavonoids, an antioxidant, in quantities at least as high as in many red grapes. There are a number of compounds in these grapes that give them the distinctively “muscaty” taste – peaches, apricots, honey, orange peel. They aromas and flavors of muscat are easily recognizable and very complex. Even the most ordinary muscats have significant aroma character.

One of my favorite Muscats has always been the La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti Vigneti Biancospino 2008, a fresh, vibrant example of the grape with frizzante, bright aromas of orange blossoms, honeysuckle and fresh apricots in the nose, followed by delicious, fresh white peaches, white plums, apricot, hints of honey, star anise, Rainier cherries and followed up with just the slightest sweetness on the finish. At 5.5% alcohol, it’s a very light and refreshing wine. Just a great wine for those nights on the patio with your significant other, watching the sun go down, and just unwinding after a long hot day.

Many of the Muscat wines are not dessert sweet, and are pretty satisfying as food wines, and not just dessert. Give the Spinetta a try with a light shrimp salad or some raw oysters on the half-shell. Sushi wouldn't be too bad either.

1 comment:

Laurie Tadayon said... do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I think Gelber Muskatellar in particular is one of the most beautiful and elegant grape varietals out there.
One that I tasted during my trip to Austria this June was by Weingut Jamek, during a wine tasting at the winery's restaurant. Our server came around pouring just enough to taste the wine, but my entire table begged him to leave us with the bottle.

I like to say that if a wine was an elegant, classically beautiful lady decked out in pink and lace and powdery perfumes, the Gelber Muskateller would be it.