The term “Muscat” can be confusing for even seasoned wine lovers. It can be tricky to really identify what a Muscat wine is, because there’s sweet and fortified wines, dry wines, sparkling wines and more that all bear the name. There’s a lot to it, but let’s try to establish a few facts at least.
What is Muscat?
Muscat is a wine grape, or more accurately the word “Muscat” refers to a family of over 200 wine grapes. Don’t panic, though, we don’t expect you to know them all. In fact, you’ll go pretty far by only knowing a handful of them.
- The most important is surely Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains, commonly referred to as Muscat Blanc and also known as Muscat Canelli, Moscato d’Asti, Moscato Bianco, Brown Muscat and many more besides. In Spain it is often known as Muscat de Grano Menudo. Confused yet? Stick with us. Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains produces tiny berries and wines with a distinctive floral and grapelike aroma. The wines can range from sweet to dry, and may be sparkling or still. Major producing regions for Muscat wines of this type include Spain, France, Italy, South Africa, Greece and Australia.
- Muscat of Alexandria is another member of the Muscat family, though produces wines on a smaller scale and of a lower profile than Muscat Blanc. It is a popular eating grape and produces wines in regions including California and in France, where it is blended with Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains in the fortified sweet wines known as Vins doux naturel.
- Muscat of Hamburg, also known as Black Muscat, is a dark-skinned grape which is atypical for the Muscat family. It is most commonly used to produce dessert wines in California, and is growing in popularity as a blending grape in China.
- Muscat Ottonel is the primary type of Muscat grown in the French region of Alsace, known far and wide for its white wines. It is also the main Muscat to be found in Austria, often used to produce sweet late harvest wines. It is increasingly common in Central European vineyards in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and beyond.
Muscat wines to try
Reading about wine can be fascinating, but the best way to learn is surely by tasting and enjoying the wines themselves with good company. If this feels like it has been a day in school, then here’s your homework: Taking the most important Muscat grape, Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains, we suggest that you pick up a number of interesting bottles and explore the Muscat style for yourself!
- MdO Moscato de Ochoa is a low-alcohol, lightly sparkling Muscat wine from the Navarra region in Spain. Very close to the Italian Moscato d’Asti style, this one is incredibly versatile with or without food, and its 5.5% alcohol content makes it an ideal accompaniment to a summer lunch. It is semi-sweet in style, and is one very interesting expression of Muscat.
- Sumarroca Muscat from Sumarroca is a still white wine produced in the Penèdes region. It is a dry expression of Muscat, though has a lot of fruit and floral character. This is a highly refreshing bottle that you could easily substitute for a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay the next time you want to impress your guests with something a little different!