In the last year I have written about nearly every variety of grape, yet I have
almost forgotten the humble muscat. The reason is because it is regarded as a
simple variety, and is less interesting than the more noble
Also the traditional sweet muscat dessert wines have come to
be regarded as passé as new alternatives became available. However, muscat does
have its claim to fame.
It is the world’s oldest known and earliest
recognized grape variety. Furthermore in the last year or two, it has undergone
an extraordinary revival due the success of Moscato. The muscat vine originated
in the eastern Mediterranean and was then dispersed to southern Europe and North
Africa by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. It made its home in the
It is quite likely that it stayed in Israel during
the last 2,000 years, having survived the Muslim strictures on wine
It will have been used as a table grape, for food or raisins.
In any case, the muscat grape makes a real connection between ancient times and
There are many different varieties which are all part of the same
The color of the berries ranges from green to black,
depending on the specific variety.
Whichever it is, they all have an
easily recognizable musky, grapey aroma. The three strains grown in Israel are
the Muscat of Alexandria, the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Muscat
The Muscat of Alexandria is the most widely planted muscat grape
and the one most associated with our region. It is sometimes known as muscatel
or moscatel in Spain and Portugal. The moscatel of Setubal is a well-known
It goes by the name of Haneport in South Africa and Zibibbo in
southern Italy. It also grows in Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon and Turkey, where it is
known as Misket.
The most famous muscat is the Muscat Blanc à Petits
Grains. This is the “classy” member of the family. It has smaller berries and
produces aromas slightly more delicate and less bombastic than Muscat of
Alexandria. If you see Muscat Blanc, White Muscat, Muscat Canelli or Muscat de
Frontignan on a label, they are the same thing.
It is a versatile grape
responsible for a wide range of wines from the bone dry Muscats d’Alsace, the
sweet fortified Muscat de Beaumes de Venise to the luscious rich Liqueur Muscats
of Australia. It is also responsible for sparkling wines like the frothy, sweet
Asti Spumante from Piedmont in Italy and creamy, off dry Clairette de Die from
the Rhone Valley in France.
The most famous Muscats in the eastern
Mediterranean are produced from the Greek Island of Samos.
food grape, the Muscat Hamburg is the third muscat in Israel. It is also called
Black Muscat. It is the least known of the three. The red wines produced from it
don’t have a great depth of color, but they are sweet and aromatic as you would
expect from wine from this aromatic family.
Muscat may also be used in
the production of spirits. Chile’s Pisco is made from the distillation of muscat
Also the Greek Metaxa is a brandy liqueur, with muscat added to
provide aroma and sweetness. In the rare Carmel 120 Brandy, produced to
celebrate its 120th harvest, part of the blend is made from muscat distilled in
Muscat of Alexandria is still being planted in Israel, but
this is not because muscat dessert wines are making a comeback. It is to satisfy
the new craze in wine.
These are low alcohol, light, frizzante,
semi-sweet wines made in the style of Moscato d’Asti in Piedmont, Italy. Moscato
has replaced Fantasia as the country’s fun wine and it is also taking a large
share of the Emerald Riesling market.
The growth in popularity of Moscato
is most apparent in America, where the phenomenon is described as “moscato
madness.” The fast increasing sales have revived the Muscat grape variety and
Moscatos are succeeding in introducing a whole new generation to wine. Adam
Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and writes about wine for both Israeli and
The main wines made from muscat grapes in Israel are as follows. All should be served ice cold.
Fun, easy drinking, slightly sparkling and
Moscatos will be liked by even those who don’t like wine. The
ultimate family wine for kiddush. Alcohol 5.5-6%.
Young Selected Moscato
Dalton Moscato Muscat table wine
wine with a fresh grapey aroma. Especially good with Asian cuisine.
Muscat Dessert wines
Aromatic sweet dessert wines. They are made in the style of
a “Vin Doux Naturel,” from the Southern Rhone in France. Perfect with
Private Collection Muscat Port style
Muscat Hamburg. The wine to sip after dinner. It has the traditional Muscat
Tishbi Red Muscat Kiddush wines
These are standard kiddush wines.
Both are white, very sweet and aromatic.
King David Muscat
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>