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The Muscat Blanc Grape


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About Muscat Blanc

(Synonyms: Brown Muscat, Frontignan, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Moscatel rosé, Moscato bianco, Moscato d'Asti, Moscato di Canelli, Muscat blanc, Muscat Canelli, Muscat d'Alsace, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel, Muskateller, Rutherglen Muscat, Sarga Muskatoly, Sárgamuskotály, Tamianka, Tamjanika, Tamiioasa Romaneasca, White Muscat.)

Background

Map of Europe showing Greece

The story of Muscat is complicated, chiefly because the ancestral grape is ancient—it was in common use by the Greeks (as Anathelicon moschaton and the Romans (as Uva Apiane), and has had numerous travels since. Actually, even that is a gross over-simplification, because it refers to the particular Muscat grape we are considering here, the Muscat Blanc (or, more fully, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, aka Muscat Canelli and a lot more—look at the list a bit up-page); the Muscat family of grapes comprises many more types with which we will not deal here. As best anyone knows, their origins lie in Greece.

As the name implies, Muscat Blanc is used to make white wines (as are most but by no means all Muscat grapes). The Muscat Blanc is pretty much universally considered to be not merely the easy champion of the entire Muscat family, but one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class white-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page).

Traditionally, Muscat Blanc (like all the Muscats) has been used to make dessert wines, and as with several other grape types (Semillon, Petit Menseng, Malvasia, Corvina, and more), it is the eminence of those sweet wines that tends to include the grape types in "world's greatest" lists. Nonetheless, as with all the others, when vinified dry with some respect, it makes excellent table wines (and it is those that we deal with here—we do not deal with dessert wines).

Muscat Blanc is now grown in many locations, from its home in Greece (where dry examples are rare) to Italy, France, South Africa, Portugal, the U.S., and Australia, where it is usually called "Brown Muscat", or sometimes "Frontignan". (American-made Muscat Blancs can only be labelled "Muscat Blanc" or "Muscat Canelli".) But the primary sources of dry Muscats are Alsace and the northern reaches of Italy (Trentino-Alto Adige).

As you will see below, descriptions of the wine tend to be brief and repetitious: grape-y, with overtones of orange plus the usual roster of floral/spice suspects. And, in truth, it's hard to augment that much. The essence of dry Muscat Blanc (as with dry Malvasia) is to retain the floral and fruity/spicy quality (especially in the nose), with a good acid balance; poorly made ones are either not all that "dry", or else have lost sublety. Good ones are (again, as with Malvasias) truly remarkable.

Factoid: Muscat Blanc is said to be almost the only grape whose wine actually smells and tastes like grapes.


Some Descriptions of Muscat Blanc Wines


Some Muscat Blancs to Try

(About this list.)

Finding presentable dry specimens of this wine will make one feel like he is attempting to practice dentistry on chickens. If the wine is actually called "dry", there's still a fair chance that when you read the fine print (or the reviews), it will turn out to be "off dry" or "only semi-sweet": yuk. Or it will be low-rated by reviewers. Or it will be unavailable in this country. Or it will be well over our price limit. Or it will be so scarce that only one or two retailers carry it. Or it will turn out to actually be some other muscat-family grape. And so on.

As you will see, we had to hunt to find even a few to list.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Planeta Moscato di Noto
(Moscato di Noto appellation, Sicily, Italy; this is not the sweet "passito" bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣ This one pushes the price envelope for us; sorry.

This vibrant, dry expression of the Moscato grape from Noto, Sicily opens with an intense floral fragrance of wild rose, jasmine, orange blossom and citrus. The palate delivers nectarine zest, white peach and a hint of Mediterranean brush balanced with fresh acidity. Sip as an apéritif or pair it with shellfish. 90 points.

A candy-sweet nose bursting with elderflower, green tea and roses gives way to a surprisingly dry and clean finish. The complexity and refreshing qualities make this wine ideal for sipping outside with fresh salads and seafood.

[Google-translated from Italian:] In the glass a clear yellow color is observed, with greenish reflections on the sides. The nose is immediately invested by precious primary scents that take on the nostrils with a pure, intact, vinous, crystalline, fine, fruity, floral and vegetable tract. In particular, white fish, apricot, lychee, pink rose, jasmine, jasmine, acacia, broom and sage are noted. Fresh, delicate, pleasant, slender, agile and deliciously aromatic, it flows into a mouthful of fresh, delicate aroma, which is then tense and progressive, with tactile sensations of honey and candied fruit. Persistent and enjoyable retrograde. Fabulous price. [Luciano Pignataro]

Powerful, grapey and citrussy with lovely richness and high acidity. There’s some marmaladey freshness; this is a lively wine. 91 points.

This dry Moscato was aged in stainless steel tanks to retain fruit tastes and high acidity. Francesca Planeta considers it a “playful Moscato” which pairs well with raw seafood, a popular dish in Menfi. The beautiful finish of the wine truly complemented the zest of the orange shrimp [had with it].

This is a dry wine, not the sweet Moscato that is so popular right now. It is very aromatic, with a complex blend of floral, citrus, vanilla and more. On the palate, it is crisp and full bodied, with an intriguing melange of flavors. A nice apertif.



Juan Gil Moscatel Seco
(While some sources refer to this as being from Muscat of Alexandria, others—most notably the winery itself—say it is 100% Muscat à Petits Grains.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[Bi-lingual page: scroll down to English] The wine is light golden and clean, with bright highlights and thin legs. On the nose it shows a medium-high intensity, with fruity sensations: it shows a lot of acid apples, with hints of peaches and pineapples. There are herbaceous aromas, and flowers (jasmine) and citrics. It has a strong personality. The palate is full of fruity sensations, and the finish is citric and long (the acidity is very nice). It's a white wine, but it has a very nice body and structure, and it's not light. It has insensity, but it's nice and very easy to drink. It's worth enjoying its expressive aromas slowly.

[Google-tranalated from Spanish:] Nose is complex with hints of fruits like peach and apricot, citrus and floral tones. The palate is rich, harmonious, with a fine acidity that makes it very cool.

♣ Bacchus XIX Awards Competition (White Wines 2012), Silver Medal

[Google-tranalated from Spanish:] Pale yellow. A glass pineapple, apricot and orange blossom. A cup is moved with fruity apricot and peach notes first tropical (pineapple) and a background citrus (grapefruit) with aromas of white flowers. The palate is sweet with notes of melon and pineapple and a slight acidity ending with a nice dry spot. . . A white excellent value for money it has improved.

[Google-tranalated from French:] Its straw yellow color also gives some gold and even slightly green hues. The nose is intense freshness that feels spectacularly invades your nasal passages. On a background of tropical fruits such as pineapple, is grafted notes of citrus, peaches and also some floral touches. In short it is a festival of flavors that will transport you and take you far, far away, especially after tasting. On the palate, this wine is a harmonious combo since the nose / mouth is perfectly consistent. Firstly bites into a juicy pineapple, fresh tropical fruits floods your mouth, then there are citrus notes ending with a long finish somewhat herbaceous.

[Google-tranalated from Spanish:] Visual appearance: tall, colorless limpid fluency / lemon hue. Olfactory notes of fruit (citrus, grapefruit, peach), floral notes (white flower) and saline point. Dry mouth with medium acidity medium / low structure bitterness edged light-bodied with aromas of peach, light hydrocarbons with a saline nuance, with an aftertaste in mouth half.

[Google-tranalated from Spanish:] Straw yellow with greenish reflections; Aromas of tropical and stone fruits like pineapple with citrus and floral notes, Fresco, pleasant and fruity.



Patricius Sárga Muskotály Tokaji (Dry Yellow Muscat)
(Tokaji, Hungary.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣ This wine has received little attention to date from the "big" reviewers, but seems worthy of inclusion on this list, as we feel the quotations below will suggest.

Patricius' yellow muscat is a gem of a wine, with a delicately floral bouquet and a flavor that's lightly fruity but perfectly dry. It makes a strong case for Hungary's potential as a source of dry white wines.

Tasting Panel Magazine scored the Tokaj Dry Furmint 2012 and the Yellow Muscat 2012 both at 90 points.

The color was straw with citrus and floral on the nose. It was very aromatic with a light fruity flavor but definitely dry. Again, this is another beautifully balanced wine showing cream, pear and grass on the finish.

The Muscat is pleasingly aromatic and brighter than an Alsatian counterpart. We all agreed this is a great wine for a Pinot Grigio lover looking for adventure.

Wave of orange and lemon on the nose, crisp, fruity and clean on the palate, good acidity, with just a touch of residual sugar.

Fragrance jumps out of the glass. Dry and salinic, dandelion notes.

A wine with a great diversity of notes supporting a multitude of foods. Spring-summer like; best enjoyed year round. A wine with a pronounced minerality and acid signature. Notes of Green-yellow citrus, melon, pear, sesame, cashew and floral and white tea.

The wine is pale yellow in color and it has an intense floral perfume with faint hint of spice and citrus. It has really lovely fruit that is floral with hints of spice, citrus, and almond. The finish is crisp with just a touch of balanced sweetness – Outstanding.



For a Splurge

It was hard finding suitable basic dry Muscats; a "splurge" wine is unfindable on the dry side of the grape.


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