Of the four principal varieties of the muscat grape, including Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Blanc, Muscat Hamburg, and Muscat Ottonel, the most widely propagated and also most representative of the family character is Muscat Blanc, known as Muscat Frontignan in France and Moscato di Canelli in Italy.
Each muscat produces, with subtle variation, wines with the distinct, intense, aromatic, sweet, and easily-recognized scent of muscat and, unusual for most wine varieties, that actually taste like grapes. Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Hamburg are, in fact, cultivated as table grapes, as well as for making wine.
Muscat is a very ancient variety and, with its strong and distinctive perfume, was probably one of the first to be identified and cultivated. Nearly every Mediterranean country has a famous wine based on muscat and varying from light and bone dry, to low-alcohol sparkling versions, to very sweet and alcoholic potions.
The muscat vine is not very vigorous in most soil types, especially sandy mixtures, and seems to prefer damp, deep soils. It also falls victim quite easily to any of several vine diseases. Normally early in budding, muscat may also suffer from Spring frosts; muscat Ottonel is particularly susceptible to shatter or coulure. All things considered, muscat would not seem to be a grape that would be cultivated so widely as it is.
The full name is Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and the berries are quite small and round, but not always white. The spectrum includes pale green, pale yellow, golden, pink, red, brown, and black berries. Some vines produce fruit that can be different colored each vintage.
|Muscat Smell and/or Flavor Elements|
|Varietal Aromas/Flavors:||Processing Bouquets/Flavors:|
|Perfume: terpine||(best if not aged in wood)|
|Fruit: peach, orange||.|
California had barely 100 acres of muscat blanc in 1961, over 400 by 1971. Since 1981, muscat blanc acreage has been fairly steady at 1,100 to 1,300 acres. Muscat orange, which has a distinct orange blossom aroma is grown on 135 acres. Muscat of Alexandria, which has much less distinctive aroma and flavor than the other muscat varieties, but thrives in warm growing areas, is planted to over 5,000 acres of California vineyard. It sets a very large crop of fruit that can get very sweet, but the flavor is merely grapey.
by Jim LaMar