The Muscat family of grapes is one of the oldest known extant grape families, and has made a home all the way round the Mediterranean and beyond. Muscat wines come in a variety of styles, from bone dry through to very sweet, from light in alcohol to fortified, from subtle to all-guns-blazingly aromatic. n In the end, whatever their style, most are recognisable as the grapey grape, Muscat!
Here are two very different expression from Top Selection’s portfolio, one very dry (the “Sahara”) and the other quite opposite (the “monsoon”!)
Terra Tangra Thracian Mountain Wine Tamianka 2016 (12.5%, RRP £14.77 from Top Selection)
Tamianka is regarded as a Muscat-like indigenous variety in its home of Bulgaria, but a little digging through Wine Grapes (Robinson, Vouillamoz, Harding) reveals that Tamyanka (and various alternative spellings) is a synonym for Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, and so it truly is Muscat!
This is a rather aromatic wine, with lots of grape and floral notes on the nose. The palate shows citrus – particularly grapefruit – and a distinct chalkiness. It’s pithy, with only a little weight, but a lot of texture. This is more of a food wine than a sipping wine.
Top Selection recommend pairing it “with white meats with a bit of spice heat – for example, spicy marinated chicken served on a bed of black Thai rice and bok choi.”
Cereto Santo Stefano Moscato d’Asti 2015 (5.5%, RRP £13.92 (375ml) from Top Selection)
There are three main ways to make sweet Muscat:
- Pick the grapes late, i.e. a late harvest style, so the grapes have more sugar when picked;
- Fortify the wine before fermentation has finished, thereby killing the yeast and leaving plenty of sugar unfermented (like the Vin Doux Naturel style);
- Stop fermentation early by chilling, without the addition of grape spirit, so the resulting wine is sweet and fairly low in alcohol.
Moscato d’Asti goes for the third route, with some bubbles for good measure! “Moscato” is now a popular style in Australia and the US due to its eminent drinkability, but Italy still produces the best examples. This example from Ceretto is sweet but not sickly, lithe, alert, aromatic, heady and refined….just bloody gorgeous!!
The folks at Top Selection recommend partnering Ceretto Moscato d’Asti with Ceretto’s own Panettone – or alternatively a fresh fruit-based dessert.