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Wine

Know Your Variety - Moscato

For many new wine lovers, Moscato {mos-kah-toe} is the ultimate ‘entry’ wine. Made from one of the world’s oldest known grapes, it’s available in countless styles and is a very affordable, food-friendly drop. Lower in alcohol than other varieties and with sweet, appealing notes that make it especially fresh and approachable, Moscato is always a welcome guest at the table.

To learn more, we spoke to winemaker Rollo Crittenden of Crittenden Estate, and Gary Reed, chief winemaker at Petersons in the Hunter Valley, both dab hands at producing delectable examples of this exceedingly popular wine.

ORIGINS

Before we delve into what qualities to look for in a Moscato, it is worthwhile learning a bit about the heart of Moscato – humble Muscat grape. That’s right, the same grape that makes many Fortified wines! Muscat is one of (if not the) oldest known grape varieties in the world. The name Muscat is believed to been derived from the Latin muscus, and relates to the perfumed aroma of musk (originally sourced from the male musk deer). One interesting fact is Muscat is one of the only grapes whose aroma on the vine matches that in the glass.

It is thought that the Muscat grape originated in Greece or the Middle East – possibly even Ancient Egypt – and was transported to Italy and France during Roman times, eventually making its way all over the world. Traditionally, the home of Moscato is in Asti in Italy’s Piedmont region, where it has been made since the early 13th century. 

Accordingly, with so much history and being so widely dispersed, the Muscat grape has undergone many mutations and these days there are over 200 different varieties, which is an amazing amount and exponentially more than any other grape varietal.

 

MOSCATO IN AUSTRALIA

Moscato first came to Australia as part of Busby’s collection in 1832, but it has been noted that other cuttings have since come from other sources, including Italy and South Africa. Unlike in Piedmont, which has strict regulations governing the Muscat variety allowed for the production of Asti Spumante – namely, Moscato Bianco – Australian producers have had a much broader palette to choose from for making their Moscato, with many opting for Brown Muscat, Muscat of Alexandria (Gordo Blanco) or Muscat Giallo.

As of recently, the industry body Wine Australia laid out regulations specifying the 13 different Muscat varieties that may be used for its production. Rollo Crittenden reveals that they use a blend of three varietals for their Moscato. “It is predominantly Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Bianco, but there is a dash of Gewürztraminer (about 10%) which gives the wine added lift and aromatics,” Rollo says. “We are certainly very proud of it and feel that it closely resembles a true Moscato from the Asti region in Italy.”

Gary Reed, chief winemaker at Petersons in the Hunter Valley, reveals they source the grapes for their Moscato from the Granite Belt. “We tend to use the Muscatel (Muscat of Alexandria) grape,” says Gary. “We soak overnight and freeze it after fermentation and keep knocking it back.” According to Gary there is nowhere for the winemaker to hide when making Moscato – it is all about fruit from the vineyard. “Any imbalance is really accentuated.”

 

TASTING NOTES

Moscato is a very nose-worthy wine. “The aroma is generally musky, but it can be a bit dusty as well, with a range of sweetness from slightly dry to fully sweet and from still, to frizzante to bubbly,” Gary continues. “All are valid examples of the variety.” When it comes to flavour, “A good Moscato should have that long length, good balance and acidity,” says Gary. “It should not have any coarseness or hardness, and should not be cloying on the palate.” It’s also a very colourful wine, from light straw through to dark pinks, even reds, and the older the vine use, the greater the richness and intensity of flavour.

 

FOOD PAIRING

Moscato is an exceptionally versatile wine to pair with food, but is especially agreeable with desserts and anything fruit-based, as its naturally sweet characters and light fizz complement and enhance the flavours and textures of such dishes.

 

 

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