Muscat is one of the most recognizable grapes in terms of taste and nose. It is a grape variety with many types and applications. Sometimes effervescent, sometimes sweet, it comes in many forms, and offers a wide range of flavors. It is one of the most emblematic grape varieties of France, which has conquered the palates of many wine lovers. After Mourvèdre and Viognier, let’s discover together this plural grape variety, with multiple flavors.
It is a white grape variety of Greek origin, present in many domains on the Mediterranean coast. Typically Mediterranean, it has adapted to other regions that are quite warm and sunny.
It is also a plural grape variety, which has developed considerably, and has many different varieties throughout the world. It produces very different wines, whether white, red or rosé.
Its name is different depending on the country in which it is found: Moscatel de Grano Menudo (Spain), Moscatel Galego Branco (Portugal), Moscato bianco (Italy), Moschato aspro (Cyprus, Greece).
The Muscat in fugures
There are between 150 and 200 varieties of Muscat, according to Pierre Galet, world-renowned ampelographer. These differences are due to natural mutations, or made by man, with objectives of yield, improvement or quality of assembly.
Muscat represents 7,000 hectares of vineyards in France, and 45,000 hectares worldwide. Most of the Muscat surface in France is in the south of France, as well as in Alsace.
Muscat in France and in the world
In France, the grape variety is present around the Mediterranean, in the Rhone Valley, and also in the foothills of the Vosges in Alsace. There are 4 types of Muscat cultivated in France:
- Muscat Blanc with small grains is the oldest cultivated variety. Of Greek origin, it arrived in France via the first Phocaean colonies, settled in Marseille. It is used to make dry white wines, natural sweet wines and sparkling wines.
- Muscat Blanc of Alexandria is most often used in blends. In Roussillon, it is associated with Muscat Blanc à petits grains, to bring finesse and power.
- Muscat Blanc Ottonel is a hybrid of Chasselas and Muscat developed in 1852 in Alsace. Unlike the variety of the south of France, it is a variety that gives dry wines.
- The red Muscat of Hamburg is a grape variety cultivated in France only for the protection of its variety of Table Grape. It is also found in the AOC Muscat du Ventoux, the only AOC of table grapes with Chasselas de Moissac.
There are 7 Muscat appellations in France: Frontignan (which can also be made into a liqueur wine), Rivesaltes, Beaumes, Venice, Lunel, Mireval, Saint-Jean de Minervois, and Cap Corse.
In the world
Outside of France, it can be found in various regions: in Central and Eastern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, in certain regions of South America and in South Africa. In Australia, it is called “Lexia”, short for Alexandria. In Spain, it produces wines called Moscatel.
The characteristics of Muscat
On the vine, it is recognizable by its medium-sized berries, juicy, sweet and firm. The variety has an early budding, and a maturity of the second period. It is a rather fragile variety, which fears frosts and mildew.
All varieties of Muscat, and its different vinifications in sweet, dry or sparkling wines, are characterized by their “muscatelike” aromas. Indeed, this aroma comes from natural substances called terpenes (linalool, nerol, geraniol, terpineol).
Aromas and tasting
The main aromas of Muscat wines are orange, brown sugar, barley sugar and raisins. There are also aromas of white fruits and rose. According to many experts, it is one of the easiest grape varieties to recognize on the nose, because of its characteristic aromas.
For food and wine pairings, sweet Muscats are mainly served as aperitifs, or with foie gras and desserts. As for the dry Muscats, they go perfectly with asparagus or seafood.
Wines made from Muscat are generally consumed quite young. They do not have a great ageing potential because of the low acidity they contain. White wines made from Muscats do not really need to be opened before tasting, being quite floral and to be enjoyed quite young. On the other hand, red wines made from Muscat can benefit from a little aeration before serving, to let the aromas develop before tasting.
Check out our series of articles to learn all about grape varieties and many others on the Aveine blog.