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Tim York

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WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Tim York » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:24 am

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2006 – Domaine des Bernardins – Alc.15%, a vin doux naturel (= fortified sweet wine), made from Muscat à petits grains.
Germaine wanted 20cl of Muscat BdeV for an olive bread recipe (delicious) and I discovered this in my cellar. Normally I drink these French Muscats ( BdeV, Rivesaltes and Frontignan) very young so that their burgeoning apricot and peach type fruit sprinkled with spice overtrumps a cloying tendency, but I had forgotten this bottle.
I was not expecting a lot therefore from the remains kept for two days under VacuVin in the fridge. The first surprise (VacuVin is sometimes accused of aroma scalping) was an almost explosive bouquet of lychee mixed with oriental spices. And, on the palate, the second surprise was the presence of enough backbone to avoid cloying even though the entry and mid-palate revived fond childhood memories of my first post-war candied fruit and Turkish delight. It was all a bit excessive for my present day ideal but in its way was very good 16.5/20.

This raises in my mind the question whether the French sweet Muscats are capable of graceful ageing which I have never allowed them in the past and, indeed, whether with further ageing they are capable of the sort of ethereal beauty which I have met in the past in mature examples of Moscatel de Setubal. This is made from the related Muscat d’Alexandrie, perhaps the source of its refinement.

Alsatian dry Muscat, from Muscat à petits grains and Muscat ottanel, can be very fine in its youth but I wouldn’t think of ageing it. It is also made in VT and SGN versions and presumably ages well in that guise but I have never had any.

Any further experience or opinions?
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Bill Hooper

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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Bill Hooper » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:02 am

Hi Tim.

I am a huge fan of dry Muscat. I absolutely think of it as great -though some are greater than others. I'm not a huge fan of Muscat Ottonel -higher yielding, softer flavors, sort of the Grenache to the Syrah of the better Muscat a petit grains (which in Germany is called Gelber Muskateller. There is also Roter Muskateller, and Goldmuskateller, which is Moscato Giallo.). Gelber Muskateller is the way to go IMO for more precision and class and in Germany, blending is not common. If you can find Rebholz, Müller-Catoir, or Becker you have three of the greatest dry-Muscat wines (Becker is more off-dry) produced in the world. And far from expensive (12-15€). Haunting floral and spice aromas, light-bodied, and lots of acid. Great for spring and asparagus-season (right around the corner in these parts.) I've had some Eiswein and dessert wines made from the variety as well, but dry (or feinherb) is more exciting for this grape to me.

Cheers,
Bill
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Kelly Young

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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Kelly Young » Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:51 pm

I'm a huge dry Muscat fan too. While I don't have any real experience with significant aging, 5 years out being the furthest I've had, I've loved almost every one I've encountered. And while age worthy wines are worthy the praise they get there is certainly something to be said for some of these wines that don't need or get to see too many summers. Personally I think some of these wines designed to be drunk young can still be considered great.

My thinking is pretty much in line with Mr. Hoopers. I do also love the Weinbach, Ostertag, and Trimbach, versions. I got a very nice dry from Tramontane in the Côtes Catalanes of all places.

My experience with sweet versions is limited but an area this is absolutely on my to do list.
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Craig Winchell » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:44 am

Australia is known for the greatness of its Liqueur Muscat.
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Tim York » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:06 am

Craig Winchell wrote:Australia is known for the greatness of its Liqueur Muscat.


Have you, or anyone else here, had one which justifies that known? Do you know from which variety of Muscat is it made?
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Fredrik L » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:44 am

They have received 100 points from Bob on occasions, not that it answers your question... :evil:
I drink Yalumba´s Museum Muscat Reserve from time to time and it tends to deliver in the low to mid nineties.
Most Liqueur Muscats are made predominantly from the brown, red and black sports of the Muscat a Petite Grains grape variety.

The only really great Muscats I have had were made from Gelber Muskateller (a k a Muscat a PG, a k a Sarga Muskotály) from Wachau (FX Pichler) or Tokaji (Gergely Vince).

Greetings from Sweden / Fredrik L
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Kelly Young » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:45 pm

Fredrik L wrote:I drink Yalumba´s Museum Muscat Reserve from time to time and it tends to deliver in the low to mid nineties.


I really like this wine a lot. I'm not a points person but it's definitely in my "Yes" category. And it's inexpensive.
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Salil » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:21 pm

An unequivocal yes from me, after experiencing this recently: Valdespino Moscatel Toneles. Among the great wine experiences of my life.

Most of the time it's a decent to good wine, occasionally becoming something more interesting in the right hands or site - I like ZH's Goldert, and I've had a couple of fantastic bottles of Kurt Darting's Muskateller TBA from 1996. But the Valdespino is something special, and IMO belongs in the same conversation as Huet Constance/1er trie, Yquem or great German Eiswein when we're talking about the world's great sweet wines.
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Dale Williams » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:01 pm

I've had dry or just off dry Muscat from Heidi Schrock, Muller-Catoir, and (gasp!) Zind Humbrecht that I've quite enjoyed (especially with asparagus, particularly white asparagus). I liked a couple Darting dessert wines. None have made to my idea of greatness. But I'm willing to be experimented on!
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Tim York » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:51 am

Salil wrote:An unequivocal yes from me, after experiencing this recently: Valdespino Moscatel Toneles. Among the great wine experiences of my life.



I'm not surprised that Muscat can take on greatness in the sherry area. Looking back through my notes I find that I have tasted a good one but not so mind blowing as the Valdespino -

Guitiérrez Colosía, DO Jerez
This sherry house was unknown to me but I will seek out its wines in future.........
Moscatel Soleado (€16), 15 year Solera, showed fine spicy aromatics and considerable but non-cloying sweetness; 16/20.


I've also tasted a good but not outstanding dry Muscat of Alexandria from Malaga -

Malaga Ariyanas Moscatel Seco – Bodegas Bentomiz (€16), Moscatel de Alejandría 100%, was deliciously crisp as well as being highly aromatic and spicy; 15.5/20+++.


This brings me on to the Muscat variety. I have been unable to find information on the Valdespino and Guitiérrez Colosía Muscats but my guess is that it is Muscat of Alexandria which gives outstanding sweet results in Setubal.
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Fredrik L » Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:27 am

Tim York wrote:This brings me on to the Muscat variety. I have been unable to find information on the Valdespino and Guitiérrez Colosía Muscats but my guess is that it is Muscat of Alexandria which gives outstanding sweet results in Setubal.


It is indeed. Locally I think it´s known as Moscatel Romano.

Greetings from Sweden / Fredrik L
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Tim York » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:44 am

I have come across this TN dating from 2009 on a fine Muscat from Australia.

And the best for last –

Chambers Rosewood (Victoria) Rutherglen Muscat (€11 for 375ml), amber coloured, was a revelation of complex and deeply rich flavours and aromatics with Oxford marmalade, raisins and fine molasses; 17.5/20 QPR!!


I hesitate to qualify it as "great" just on the basis of a sip and spit at a tasting and would love to have the opportunity of confirming that at home.
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Dave Erickson » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:10 pm

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, as South Africans never tire of saying, was a wine enjoyed by Napoleon and Jane Austen, although not at the same time :mrgreen: )

It's made from what they call Muscat de Frontignan and the rest of the world calls Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

History and pictures from Jamie Goode:

http://www.wineanorak.com/southafrica/southafrica_14_kleinconstantia.htm
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by Tim York » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:35 pm

Dave Erickson wrote:Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, as South Africans never tire of saying, was a wine enjoyed by Napoleon and Jane Austen, although not at the same time :mrgreen: )



I don't think Napoleon is a good reference for anything. Why oh why :shock: do so many people persist in considering him a "great man" when Hitler's and Stalin's reputations languish in the doldrums which they deserve?
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by David Lole » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:07 pm

Tim York wrote:
Craig Winchell wrote:Australia is known for the greatness of its Liqueur Muscat.


Have you, or anyone else here, had one which justifies that known? Do you know from which variety of Muscat is it made?


Literally hundreds, Tim. Chambers, Morris, Bullers, Stanton and Killeen (all from Rutherglen, Victoria) and Seppelt are some of the best - strive to source the ancient muscat blends - generally called "rare" or "old premium" which often have an average age of 25+ years with some material in the solera going back decades longer. The cheap end stuff, even from some of the above top producers are pretty grapey and often don't have much complexity.

This might help .....

Grape variety
There are about 200 Muscat varieties, but only one is used to make Rutherglen Muscat – the high quality Muscat a petit grains Rouge, or Brown Muscat as it is known locally.

Wine Styles
Rutherglen Muscats are classified under four descriptions that mark a progression in richness, complexity and intensity of flavour. Although age is only one factor in determining a wine's classification, it does provide some clue, especially for the Grand and Rare wines.

Rutherglen Muscat – is the foundation of the style; displaying the fresh raisin aromas, rich fruit, clean spirit and great length of flavour on the palate which are the mark of all the Muscats of Rutherglen. Average age 2-5 years. Residual sweetness 180-240 grams per litre.

Classic Rutherglen Muscat – displays a greater level of richness and complexity, produced through the blending of selected parcels of wine, often matured in various sizes of oak cask to impart the distinctive dry ‘rancio’ characters produced from maturation in seasoned wood. Average age 5-10 years. Residual sweetness 200-280 grams per litre.

Grand Rutherglen Muscat – takes the flavour of Rutherglen Muscat to a still higher plane of development, displaying a new level of intensity, depth and concentration of flavour, mature rancio characters, and a complexity which imparts layers of texture and flavour. Average age 10-15 years. Residual sweetness 270-400 grams per litre.

Rare Rutherglen Muscat – is rare by name and by nature. These are the pinnacle Rutherglen Muscats – fully developed and displaying the extraordinary qualities that result from the blending of selected parcels of only the very richest, and most complete wines in the cellar. Rare Rutherglen Muscats are only bottled in tiny quantities each year, but for those privileged to taste them, these are wines of breathtaking complexity, texture and depth of flavour. Minimum age 20+ years. Residual sweetness 270-400 grams per litre.

The house styles of Rutherglen Muscat reflects each winery's unique interpretation of the variety.
Cheers,

David
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Re: WTN: Is Muscat capable of greatness?

by David Lole » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:39 pm

And some of my tasting notes of some of the best examples ......

Campbells The Merchant Prince Rare Muscat

"This is Campbell’s top end ‘Muscat’, currently retailing for around 120 AUS dollars for a 375 ml bottle! Cork sealed. 18% A/V.

Dark brown/mahogany in colour with khaki green tinges. Opened volatile and astringent but with time (24 hours, i.e. tonight) this passes to reveal a magnificent ancient assembly of decadent smells, flavours and texture - a tour de force of its type and unique for the utter brilliance it delivers in the minute quantities that can be imbibed at any one time - verging on the consistency of fresh motor oil. The bouquet is a cornacopia of muscatels, dates, maple syrup, creme de caramel, molasses, sweet earth, dusty old oak, Christmas cake, baking spices and old tea chest - an unbelievable array of nuance! In the mouth wine has enormous viscosity with mouth coating and teeth staining intensity, flavours that mimic what’s found in the bouquet and a gobsmacking finish of monumental length and intensity. This is fortified dessert wine at its global best. 95 points.
"

Morris Very Old Liqueur Muscat

"We completed another great night of food, wine and comaraderie with an ancient bottling of Morris’s moorish and incredible Very Old Liqueur Muscat (94 points) that by the age of the label would contain a majority of material that would be well in excess of 50 years old. From my reckoning the final blend for this wine was assembled somewhere in the mid-eighties, the average age being the “very old” release (which, BTW, equated to one bottle per (very good) customer per year, I was told, some years ago now, by Mick Morris’s winemaker son, David) being probably closer to 30 years of age. Some of the material (which is worked by the winery on a solera system, consistently topping up barrels until the desired blend has been achieved) would be well in excess of the average age I’ve quoted. As with most wines that come out of barrel, having “done their thing”, for years and, in this case, decades, one always risks losing the freshness carefully monitored by the talented Rutherglen winemakers who specialise in this art form. There was the slightest perceptible staleness on the nose (my wife called it “mild fish shop smell”), I thought it a touch of fish oil, but we were splitting hairs here. Otherwise the wine was “all there” with a magnificent array of aromas and flavours that would fill a page, but suffice to say, rested in the outer limits of richness, decadence and hedonism. Just so thick and viscous with an explosive mid- to back-palate with the astringency of the rancio and spirit providing the perfect foil to the luscious raisin, honey, christmas cake, burnt toffe and rum’n'raisin chocolaty fruit. The wine needs only to be drunk (I meant to say, sipped) in minute quantities given its enormity and power (not mentioning the high A/V) and with a finish that lasts well in excess of a minute, one can intellectualise as to the merit of taking another sip while the one just gone hangs all through your perceptory senses for, seemingly, an eternity."


Buller’s Rare Muscat

"Ancient mahogany brown with a khaki/olive rim, incredible viscosity. Heavenly amalgam of esters soar from the glass harbouring fragrant muscatels, creme caramel, mixed peel, dusty oak and a volatile top note. Massively concentrated, luscious palate of amazing sweetness with identical nuance found in the bouquet, held together by a grippy astringency on a sensationally long, lingering, moorish departure. Rutherglen Muscat at its absolute finest. Drink now. 96 points. 375 ml bottle sealed with a tradional cork and 18% A/V."
Cheers,

David

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