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« Riesling, Unscrewed | Main | ..and a (Spanish) partridge in a pear tree »

13 December 2004

basicJuice Blog: Now with a feminine touch

WinegoddessThe basicJuice Blog is awfully lucky today.  We welcome a new author/poster.  Say hello to the original Wine Goddess, the lovely Ms. K.  This is her first post, and I hope we receive many more!


Picture this scenario: You’re in your local wine shop, pondering the purchase of a delicate dessert wine labeled as muscat.  You remember having muscat before – it was aromatic, floral, musky – and you think it will match well with the poached pears you’re serving for dessert this evening.  But as you approach the register and get ready to fork over your wallet, you think twice: was it really muscat you had that time, or was it moscato?  Is there even a difference?  Or, could it have been muscadet? Muscadelle?  Moscatel?  As your feet go cold and your head goes into a tailspin, you rush to the door for some fresh air.  The clerk, concerned with your frenzied appearance, dashes after you to retrieve the bottle of dessert wine still clenched in your hands, as she’s sure you’ve just attempted to pilfer the bottle from the shop.  Still dazed and confused, you hand over the bottle and shout, “Why, oh why, has Bacchus been so cruel as to create a thousand grapes with the same name?”  The sky goes white.  You fall to the ground…

 Okay, maybe it’s never been quite this bad.  But surely there have been times when this issue has crossed your mind, that all grapes beginning with “musc” sound exactly the same; that the names have all blended together, and that there might even be a muscanet sauvignon or a musconnay looming out there, waiting to stump you at the right time.  Not to fear - a little homework on your part will put an end to these scary thoughts.

 Let’s tackle muscat first.  The many pseudonyms for this grape include moscato (in Italy), muskadel (in South Africa), muskateller (in Germany) and moscatel (in both Spain and Portugal).  Why can’t everybody just agree on one name?  Life would be too easy.  To make it even more confusing, muscat can have various names attached to it, such as “Alexandria”, “Ottonel”, and the rather lengthy phrase “Blanc à Petits Grains”.  But don’t be too concerned with these appendages – they’re just different varieties of the same grape, and all will be extremely perfumed and grapey. Dry or sweet; still, sparkling, or fortified: muscat has a distinct aroma and flavor that is delectably delicious.

 Next there’s muscadelle, which is not related to muscat at all. As one of the three grapes allowed for white Bordeaux (the other two more notable grapes being sauvignon blanc and sémillon), muscadelle is commonly used to add a tangy, grapey youthfulness to white Bordeaux blends.  It seldom gets top billing because it lacks the components necessary to make a single varietal wine you’d call yummy.  The one exception to this rule is in Australia, where muscadelle is used on its own to produce lusciously sweet fortified wines.  The grape is called “tokay” there. Don’t ask why.

 Finally there’s muscadet. Muscadet is a region in the Loire Valley of France, and the wine is actually made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape.  Because the wine is named after the region and not the grape, it gets the name muscadet – pretty easy.  Although it can be a bit neutral in flavor, muscadet is dry with crisp acidity, making it a great match for shellfish. You might see the term “sur lie” on the label.  If you do, make sure to buy it; it’s been aged on the lees, and this lends a delicious richness to the wine.

 Armed with this knowledge, you can once again feel confident stepping into your local wine shop.  With a brief apology to your wine clerk, you’ll be on your way to toting home the perfect wine for those poached pears you’ve been thinking of - or if you’re feeling ambitious, maybe even a wine for your next meal of moschatel-scented Muscovy duck.



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art, a friend of Jesus

GREAT information!!! Loved your vivid descriptions. Made sense to me. Thanks.

Tim Smith

Hi Beau,
Tim here from Sommelier Society of America class in NYC, lost your email, love to hear from you- ready to maybe add some writings...

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