The white muscat is an ancient white grape varietywhose history is deeply rooted in Italy in the regions of Piedmont, Valle D'Aosta, Apulia and Sicily. Its origins are lost in time: archaeological and literary finds place it in ancient Greece. In the Middle Ages, Muscat was cultivated mainly in monasteries, where monks perfected viticulture and winemaking techniques. During the time of the Roman Empire, white Muscat spread widely throughout the Mediterranean basin. The Romans greatly appreciated its fragrant wine and contributed significantly to its spread throughout Europe. During the Renaissance, it became one of the most popular wines in the European royal courts. Today, the white Muscat grape variety - especially among non-specialists - is very popular thanks to the spread of sweet sparkling wine, but it is often not associated with quality production. In reality, there are many interesting versions of it, although its most famous expressions are in the passito wine version.

White Muscat: synonyms and clones

  • Synonyms: muscat blanc a petit grain, muscat de chambave, muscat, muscat, muskateller, muscat royal (only for PDO and PGI of the Apulia region), gelber muskateller (officials). Moscato followed by the names of the place of cultivation: moscato di Canelli, moscato dei Colli Euganei, moscato di Frontignan, moscato di Montalcino, moscato di Noto, moscato di Siracusa, moscato di Strevi. Other names are: grüner muscateller, muscateller Douro, muscalen traube, muscateller, weisse, weisser muscateller.

White Muscat: characteristics

Muscat is an extremely demanding vine in terms of its cultivation terrain, so much so that sometimes all it takes is to move a few hundred metres away to lose the favourable conditions for producing fine wines. Its ideal soil is located between 200 and 280 metres above sea level and belongs to the Middle Miocene.

... of the plant

  • Appearance: leaf medium, orbicular or pentagonal, trilobed or quinquelobed and with lyre-shaped (V-shaped overlapping) petiolar sinus. The upper page is glabrous and dark green while the lower page is almost glabrous and dull light green. Petiole medium, almost glabrous.
  • Maturation: second fortnight of August and first ten days of September. Bunch medium or small, cylindrical-conical, with one or two short wings, serrated or semi serrated and compact. Grape medium and spheroid with circular cross-section. Peel fairly thick and consistent golden-yellow colour turning amber when exposed to the sun, not very pruinose. Pulp loose, almost soft and consistent with a sweet muscat flavour.
  • Productivity: poor to constant.
  • Vigour: poor to good depending on the area.
  • Resistance to adversity: It resists balling and coulure well. Very sensitive to powdery mildew and cold, it is also susceptible to downy mildew.
Grapevine white Muscat leaf

... of wine produced

It excels in sweet sparkling and passito, but is also found sparkling classic method with interesting results. Moscato d'Asti DOCG, when well executed, takes on hints of saffron if left in the bottle for a few years. Moscato passito has pleasant mineral and/or balsamic accents depending on the terroir.

  • Visual examination: pale straw yellow to deep golden yellow.
  • Olfactory examination: intense, fine and with characteristic notes of sage, musk, peach, apricot, mandarin, orange blossom and white chocolate.
  • Taste-olfactory examination: light, soft, fresh, delicate, intense and elegant, fine. Exceptional drinkability.

White Muscat: areas of cultivation

  • Italy: (suitable and recommended areas) Piedmont, Apulia, Sardinia, Valle d'Aosta and the province of Padua; (suitable areas) Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Latium, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria and the provinces of Belluno, Rovigo, Treviso,  Venice and Verona; (areas under observation) Vicenza province.
  • World (in order of quantity): Italy; France (Alsace; Languedoc-Roussilion; Rhone Valley); Greece (Peloponnese; Samos); Spain (Andalusia); Brazil (Serra Gaúcha); Romania (Transylvania); United States (California); Hungary (Eger: Mátra); South Africa (Constantia).

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Sommelier: the illustrated manual

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Moscato bianco: Italian DOCG and DOC wines where allowed

  • DOCG: Asti.
  • DOC: Abruzzo, Cagliari, Castel San Lorenzo, Colli di Parma, Tuscia or Colli Etruschi Viterbesi, Colli Euganei, Colli Piacentini, Colli Tortonesi, Elba, Golfo del Tigullio - Portofino or Portofino, Loazzolo, Menfi, Molise or del Molise, Moscadello di Montalcino, Moscato di Sardegna, Moscato di Sorso-Sennori or Moscato di Sorso or Moscato di Sennori.
Grape variety white muscat

Conclusion

When one speaks of white Muscat one immediately thinks of the sweet and more or less sparkling wine with which panettone and pandoro are still killed (by the way, I recommend you read this article with a reflection on the Chiara Ferragni Pandoro Balocco), but in reality it is a grape variety that lends itself both to sparkling or spumante vinification, and to becoming a dry white wine with intriguing aromas that lends itself magnificently to flavourful recipes with aromatic herbs such as, for example, pesto alla genovese. However, in its best expressions, a sweet sparkling Moscato d'Asti DOCG is capable of giving unimaginable emotions and aromas if you wait 6-8 years for it, and every sommelier should keep a bottle in the cellar for a special evening with oysters.

Sources:

© Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies, National Catalogue of Vine Varieties.

© Bassi C., Sommelier: the illustrated manual, Cammeo DiVino, Reggio Emilia, 2022, pp. 161-162

© Piedmontese Winegrowers (cover photo)

Other white grape varieties to be studied:

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