Muscat (MUS-cat)


No matter what anyone says, I doubt Eve was tempted by an apple in the Garden of Eden. A cataclysm of original sin … all for a plain apple? It makes no sense. Some muscat grapes, on the other hand, could have done it. Intensely aromatic and awesomely delicious, muscat is irresistible. If every luscious ripe fruit in the world were compressed into one phantasmagoric flavor, it would come close to evoking muscat. Or muscats to be more precise. For, muscat is not a singular variety but, rather, a large group of different ancient grapes that have grown around the Mediterranean for centuries. Many scientists and anthrobiologists, in fact, think that some form of muscat may have been the first domesticated variety of grape. What most of these muscats share is the distinct, awesomely fruity muscat aroma. But that’s where the easy part stops, for there are hundreds of named muscat something-or-others. To take but one example, muscat of Alexandria alone is known by approximately 200 different names around the Mediterranean. Some of the varieties in the muscat group are genetically related, but not all. The two main muscats that gave rise to numerous progenitors are muscat blanc à petits grains—a high quality, small berried variety—and its daughter, the aforementioned muscat of Alexandria. Within the muscat group are varieties that can and are made in virtually every style imaginable: dry, sweet, still, sparkling, and fortified. In Alsace, France and Austria, they are made into fantastic dry still wines (often served with asparagus). In southern Italy and Spain, various muscats are dried on mats (passito) then made into dessert wines. In northern Italy, muscat blanc à petits grains is made into the sweet bubbly wine almost everyone has had at some time in their lives (moscato d’Asti). In parts of southern France, the same grape is made into a fortified sweet wine: muscat de Beaumes-de-Venice. And the list goes on. Today, some type of muscat is grown virtually everywhere in the word—from Cyprus, South Africa, and Slovenia to Israel, Oregon, and Greece.

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