Moscatel is the only grape that has aromas and tastes of grape making it very popular with wine drinkers all over the world. When I began drinking wines one of my favourites was JP Vinhos Branco from Portugal, 100%Moscatel, delicious and easy to drink.
Moscatel is one of the oldest known grape varieties, dating back to the Egyptians. No-one knows for sure where the name ‘Muscat’ comes from. Some say that it is from the Greek ‘Moskos, or the Italian ‘Mosca’ or it may have been taken from the city of Muscat in Oman.
It is a grape that can mutate and so there are more than many types of Moscatel, more than 200 related grape varieties. The most important varieties are Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, because it has small round berries, Moscatel of Alexandria, a grape that is also very popular as a table grape for eating and is the most widely planted Spain. Other versions notable versions are the pink Moscato Rosa del Trentino, which makes a natural Rosé coloured wine, or Muscat of Hamburg, known as black Muscat for its dark skin.
Moscatel is one of the most widely planted white grape varieties, from the region of Valencia in Spain to northern Italy, where it is known as Moscato, or Alsace in France, where it is known as Muscat, as well as Portugal, Australia, South Africa, Chile, South Africa.
Here in Valencia it is the Moscatel de Alexandria that grows best in the warm mediterranean climate. The wines can be very pleasant, either dry or semi dry, with grape flavours with low acidity, served chilled is a wonderful wine to enjoy with friends as an aperitif. The moscatel vineyards can be found to the west of the city stretching doing down the coast to Denia and Alicante. There are other top quality wines made from Moscatel grown in the vineyards in the hills inland from Malaga.
A popular fortified version of this grape is a simple sweet Mistela from Valencia, which is made by added grape spirit to Moscatel grape juice. At the other end of the scale you can find an intense, rich, sweet fortified wines where the fermentation of the juice is stopped with the addition of grape spirit following which the wine is aged in wooden casks from many years. Over time these wines develop a complex array of aromas and flavours orange peal, dried apricots, raisins, figs and dried fruits.
Moscatel de Setubal in Portugal, Moscatel is Vin doux Natural Muscat Beaume de Venise, from the Rhone Valley is southern France, or a Moscato Pantelleria near Sicily, where the grapes are partially dried before being fermented adding to the intensity for flavours.
One of the best dessert wines is a Moscato d’Asti, a light sparkling wines from the Piemonte region of northern Italy. It has aromas of peach and orange blossom with a lightly sweet taste. It is low in alcohol at 6%, the winemakers stop the fermentation so that the natural sugar does not convert into alcohol. As it is low in alcohol it is also an ideal wine for lunchtime.
Look out for this well travelled and diverse grape to add to your list of wines of world to taste.