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by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | April 05, 2011

Most people will know of Muscat wine because it is the base white wine in Asti Spumante. It is a bubbly, sweet sparkling wine from Italy. Muscat wine is most often sweet and always fruity. Muscat is believed to be one of the oldest grape varieties in the world with a family of over two hundred different spinoffs known today, and it is grown worldwide. Also called Moscato in Italy and Moscatel in Spain, the Muscat grape is sweet and fruity with a rich, musky aroma. Muscat grapes are used primarily for table wines in Chile, sweet sparkling wines in Italy and sweet dessert wines in California. The berries are quite small and round, but not always white. The colors vary, including pale green, pale yellow, golden, pink, red, brown, and black berries. Some vines produce fruit that can be different colors with each vintage. It is vinified (to make wine from) in many different styles, from still to sparkling, and from dry to sweet.

Because so many varieties of Muscat grapes are grown, the shades vary greatly from white and brown to almost black. Despite its name, the Muscat Blanc grape is not always white. This variety of grape is used for a wide range of wines, from dry and light to sweet and heavy. The Muscat vine is not very vigorous in most soil types, especially sandy mixtures, and seems to prefer damp, deep soils. It can also fall victim quite easily to several vine diseases. Normally early in budding, muscat may also suffer from spring frosts. Muscat grapes are grown in mild climates such as Australia, California, France, Greece, Italy and Spain and are harvested late, when they are very ripe, making them exceptionally sweet.

The Six Most Common Varieties of Muscat Grapes

  • Muscat of AlexandriaGoes by many different names including: Moscatel de Malaga, Moscatel, Moscatel Romano, Moscatel Gordo and Gordo Blanc. It’s most widely grown in Spain and is one of the three varieties permitted to make Sherry. It is thought to date back to ancient Egyptian times. These grapes are low in acid and high in sugar, which tends to produce a lower quality of wine. Because of the lower quality, many Alexandria grapes end up as raisins or table grapes.
  • Muscat Blanc à Petits GrainsMuscat Blanc for short. It is considered the best of the Muscat grapes. It is thought to be the oldest known variety with the most concentrated grape flavors. It is used to produce the sparkling wine Asti Spumante.
  • Moscato GialloAlso known as Goldmuskateller, and Moscato Rosa or Rosenmuskateller, varieties are similar colored versions of the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grape.
  • Muscat HamburgAlso called Black Muscat and Moscato di Amburgo. It is used primarily as table grapes. It is also used to produce thin red wines in Eastern European countries.
  • Orange MuscatHas an orange aroma. It is a variety used mostly in California dessert wines.
  • Muscat OttonelKnown as Muskotaly. It is a lighter flavored grape. It is used for making dessert wines and is grown in cooler climates.

Food Pairing

Muscat wine can make a good dessert even better. It pairs well with apple pie, berries, chocolate, creams, custards, puddings, and fresh fruit. It is also a good standalone wine and can be served on its own.

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