3 favourite Muscat wine recommendations

Several individuals enjoy the flavor of Moscato d'Asti, considering it invigorating and mildly sugary. Others, especially serious wine drinkers, think it lacks acidity, complexity, and depth. Nevertheless, Muscat, or Moscato wines, is one of the most popular wines worldwide.

Moscato d’Asti is one of the most popular wines in the world (credit: michelechiarlo.it)

Different types of Muscat grapes make Muscat wines, which have similar traits but come from different varieties. The Muscat family, encompassing over 200 grape varieties, stands as one of the oldest and most aromatic grape families. Originating in the Middle East, Muscat grapes have spread across continents and adapted to diverse terroirs. Spain, Australia, and the United States grow Muscat grapes, which are vital for global Muscat production.

Muscat grapes are famous for their flowery smell and grape-like taste. They have hints of orange blossom, jasmine, and a unique musky note, making Muscat wines easily identifiable. These aromatic profiles contribute to the unique and diverse expressions of Muscat wines found around the world.

The most famous type is Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, or Moscato Bianco. It emits a lovely smell and people grow it extensively in Alsace, Southern France, Northern Italy and Greece.

Muscat of Alexandria, with its huge, oval fruit, thrives in warm areas, including Spain, Greece, Sicily, and North Africa.

Muscat Ottonel, with its flowery and spicy aromas, thrives throughout Central Europe, particularly Austria and Hungary.

Muscat Canelli, known for its lemony and peachy aromas, is popular in California. Muscat of Hamburg, a red-skinned mutant, thrives in places like as the United States and Australia.

Despite the similar spelling, Muscadelle in Bordeaux and Muscadet are not related to the Muscat family.

Moscato d’Asti, The Crowd-pleaser

The most popular and well-liked Muscat wine is Moscato d'Asti. Italy produces this wine, and other locations also make it. The Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grape makes this slightly sparkling (known as frizzante in Italian), slightly sweet wine.

People worldwide love Moscato d'Asti for its easy drinkability and low alcohol content. This beverage has a pleasant aroma, featuring undertones of peach, apricot, and orange blossoms. Its flavor is sugary and fruit-filled, ideal for a laid-back beverage.

Unlike many complex wines that may require prior wine knowledge to enjoy, Moscato d'Asti is not intimidating. It embraces simplicity without compromising on flavor, effortlessly bridging the gap between novice wine drinkers and seasoned connoisseurs. That is probably why it has achieved such popularity around the world.


Sweet Muscat, The Classics

Delicious Muscat wines, such as Moscato d'Asti, are well-liked. The most renowned ones are the sweet, strengthened Vin Doux Naturel. Some examples of Muscat wines include Muscat Beaume de Venise, Muscat de Frontignan, and Muscat of Rivesaltes from France. Another example is the wines of Samos from Greece.

A technique known as Vin Doux Naturel produces these dessert wines. It stops the fermentation process early by adding spirits. This procedure preserves the inherent sweetness of the grapes, resulting in wines that are sweet yet balanced with acidity.

Another technique for producing sweet wines from the Muscat grape is by sundrying. Passito di Pantelleria is a sweet drink made from dried Muscat grapes on the island of Pantelleria. It captures the unique taste of the island. Meanwhile, South Africa's Vin de Constance narrates a historically significant story, with Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly counted among its devoted fans.


Dry Muscat, A Rising Trend

Sweet Muscat wines have a long history, but dry Muscat is now more popular globally due to its versatility. Dry Muscat wines, especially those produced from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, unveil a different facet of the grape's personality, with crisp acidity and a vibrant, aromatic profile.

France has a reputation for producing exceptional dry Muscat wines in Alsace and Roussillon. Alsace loves Muscat grapes, making crisp, floral, mineral-driven wines. Featuring undertones of citrus, elderflower, and a subtle touch of spice.

Winemakers worldwide are using Muscat grapes to make dry wines that appeal to different people, not just in France. Orange wine movement also uses Muscat, fermenting with skin maceration to give the wine a special texture and structure.

Winemakers and wine lovers like Dry Muscat for its balanced aromas, acidity, minerality, and depth. Also, it pairs well with a variety of dishes like garlic mussels and spicy Asian food.


Red Muscat, the Outliers

Typically, people link Muscat wines with white variants, but red Muscats are also available. Black Muscat à Petits Grains, is a dark-skinned mutation of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. Rutherglen in Australia is famous for its sweet Muscat wines that gain depth over many years of age.

There is also Muscat of Hamburg, a cross of Muscat of Alexandria and Schiava Grossa, although that's used mostly for distillate production. It originated in England in the 1800s and now people grow it in different places. People mainly eat it as a table grape and use it to make wine, especially in Germany and the United States. The resulting wines offer red fruit flavors, accompanied by floral and musky notes.

On the other hand, Muscat Bailey A stands as one of Japan’s most popular wines. Kawakami Zenbei, known as the "grandfather" of Japanese wine, created Muscat Bailey A grapes in the 1920s. Breeders specifically bred these grapes to thrive in Japan's cold climate.

Muscat Bailey A wines are light, and fruity, with low tannin and acidity levels. Muscat Bailey A wines are usually light, fruity, and have low tannins and acidity.

Muscat is a versatile grape family. It inspires winemakers to create different styles. Some examples include the bubbly Moscato d'Asti, sweet Vin Doux Naturel, and dry white wines.

With its aromatic charm and diverse expressions, Muscat continues to captivate wine lovers across the globe. There's perpetually something fresh to uncover. So, if you are tired of Moscato d'Asti, perhaps consider trying a dry, skin-macerated version next time.

By Sylvia Ba

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