E wine of the week
By Bruce Cochran
One of the wines that is most popular today is actually considered by many to be the world’s oldest wine grape variety. Recently, this old grape has picked up a lot of new fans. Today we’ll look at the many faces of this granddaddy of grapes.
Try a new wine this week!
River Rock White
It is widely believed that the Muscat grape, often called Moscato, is the oldest wine grape variety of all, the progenitor of all other wine grape varieties. That’s old, but today it’s enjoying a newfound popularity.
This is no surprise to its many fans. Muscat’s flowery, perfumed nose is followed by a luscious texture and rich flavor, with hints of fruits and flowers that almost defy description. Honeysuckle, rose, apples — many scents and flavors are ascribed to the Muscat grape.
But there’s more. The main Muscat grape, prized from Asti — yes, it’s used in both the sparkling Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti, spumante’s spritzy sibling to California to Australia and beyond — is the White Muscat. A cousin of this grape is called Orange Muscat, for reasons that become quickly apparent when you pour a glass, and another is called Black Muscat, for its very deep purple/black color and flavors to match.
But the original, the one that everyone wants, is Muscat Blanc, or the White Muscat. In the south of France it’s called Muscat Frontignon, used in the local dessert wine called Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. In Italy it’s sometimes called Muscat Canelli.
Muscat Alexandria is a different cousin. It’s most popular in Eastern Europe, as is Muscat Rose. I’ve had both of these in Eastern Europe, and loved them both.
Whatever you call it, Muscat/Moscato is gaining a lot of new friends these days, who enjoy its fragrant nose and intense flavor. Most Muscat is made either slightly sweet or sweeter than that. Sometimes a lot sweeter. There aren’t many dry Muscats out there.
But this doesn’t mean that it has to be with dessert. Spicy dishes often pair well with off-dry or slightly sweet white wines. I know that some wine lovers suffer an automatic shutdown when this style is mentioned, but anyone who enjoys a fine German Riesling should give Muscat (aka moscato) a try.
I found one earlier this year named River Rock White. It’s given some extra complexity by the addition of Viognier, another very aromatic grape variety. River Rock White, from Rock Point Wines, is from southwestern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley. Both Muscat and Viognier are white wine grape varieties that thrive in slightly warmer climates than many other white varieties. River Rock White retails for around $11 or $12.