Author: Lindsay Alston
The Muscat grape is one of the oldest grape classes known to the wine world. Rather than just being one grape, Muscat includes a family of grapes, found in a range of colors: from white to brown to near black. The two well-known replicas are Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, or Muscat Blanc for short, and Muscat of Alexandria. The Muscat Blanc grape is the oldest assortment and produces the most intense grape flavors. Small in size, Muscat Blanc is not always white and it can produce both dry and sweet wines. Muscat of Alexandria is larger and often darker than the Muscat Blanc and creates wines of intense sweetness.
Moscatel is the Spanish phrase for Muscat. This most frequently refers to Muscat d’Alexandrie, although there are many diverse synonyms for Moscatel used in Spain and some may refer to the nobler assortment of Muscat Petits grains. Moscatel de Alejandria, Espana and Gordo are all examples of Muscat d’Alexandrie and will be soft and aromatic wines but usually of lesser quality. Moscatel is the white wine of the Moscatel of Alexandria grape, counted among the castas boas. It is seemingly no longer grown, but you can still find it in some old vintages. Pereira D’Oliveira has a 1900 Moscatel vintage that was still available in 2003.
Moscato is commonly known in Italy as Moscato di Canelli because of the achievement of Piedmont’s wineries that have made it legendary as Asti Spumante. Moscato is the fourth most broadly planted grape in Italy. It is amazingly perfumed like rose petals and lychee fruit, Moscato’s fresh grape-like character is easy to distinguish, even when distilled as grappa. The best examples unite creaminess, bright, stimulating fruitiness and a brisk, lasting finish. Moscato wines are either a soft yellow or a pale gold color. This is a wine that does not benefit from aging in oak barrels. Instead, fermentation usually happens in steel vats so that the delicate fruit intricacy of the wine is not lost. Moscato should be consumed instantly upon its release.
The family of Muscat grapes is large, but all the members share a flowery, strongly aromatic character, like the smell and taste of Muscat table grapes. Some are white, some black. The best variety of Muscat is generally agreed to be the Muscat Blanc et Petits Grains. These grapes can be made into wines of very varying styles, from light, sweetish, low alcohol fizzy wine in Asti in north-west Italy; to dry, fragrant whites in Alsace, the Italian Alps, South Africa, Portugal, and Spain and elsewhere; to very sweet, often fortified Muscats in hot climates where the Muscat grapes can become extremely ripe: Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise and others across the south of France, Spanish Moscatel de Valencia, Greek Samos Muscat, and the wonderful, super-sweet, raisiny Australian Liqueur Muscats, to name a few.
About the author:
Lindsay Aston is a contributing editor for Classic Wines, specializing in Muscat.