Muscat grapes are widely grown for producing wine, table grapes and dried fruit. The variety can range in colour from white to near black, but always carries a distinctive sweet, perfumed aroma. Muscat is grown the world over, and the breadth and number of varieties of muscat suggest that it is possibly the world’s oldest domesticated grape variety. In fact, archeological analysis of ancient pots discovered in Greece (over 3000 years old), found traces of an alcoholic beverage made from Muscat grapes.
Muscat is made into table and sparkling wines, most notably Moscato and spumante styles, but it in dessert and fortified wines where the variety excels. Fortified dessert wines made from Muscat occur in many countries - notably Portugal, Spain, Italy, South Africa, France and North Africa, as well as parts of Australia - the Barossa, Hunter and Swan Valleys, but it is at Rutherglen in north-east Victoria where it finds its finest expression.
Vines were first planted at Rutherglen in the 1850s, making it one of Australia’s oldest wine regions. The hot, dry summers and autumns are ideal for sugar accumulation, so important for quality dessert wines. Rutherglen Muscat is made from Muscat a Petits Grains Rouge, a variety which originated in Greece, but came to prominence in France’s Rhone Valley. Equally exceptional are Rutherglen Tokay (Topaque) wines made from Muscadelle. Having survived the ravages of phylloxera in the 1890s by planting phylloxera-resistant rootstocks, demand for Rutherglen fortifieds remained strong in both Britain and Australia.
As a result of their resilience, many wineries and vineyards established in the 19th century, are still in production, giving them access to material aged in large, old oak casks over many years. These barrel stores are often housed in corrugated iron sheds which encourage the evaporation and oxidation that give Rutherglen fortifieds their great intensity and complexity.
To assist lovers of both Rutherglen Muscat and Tokay, winemakers have developed a classification system with four categories: ‘Rutherglen’, ‘Classic’, ‘Grand’ and ‘Rare’.
Youthful Muscats are sweet, raisiny and quite simple. Aged examples are a totally different proposition with a range of aromas and flavours reminding you of fruit cake, toffee, orange peel, cold tea, mocha and nuts.
Chocolate or caramelised fruit-based desserts are a fine match with Muscats or Tokays, as is blue vein cheese. Most people however prefer to just savour the delights of these luscious treasures, prior to a night of pleasant dreams.
Great value from one of Australia's best producers. Fresh fruit aromas with a rich luscious palate of toffee, caramel and prune. Long lingering finish.
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