Grapevine by Al Bégin
The Muscat grape is said to be the oldest known variety of grape in the world. It
Grapevine by Al Bégin
“Muscat, muscat candlelight
Doin' the wine and doin' it right
In the evenin'
It's pretty pleasin'”
- with apologies to the band ‘America’
The Muscat grape is said to be the oldest known variety of grape in the world. It is a vinifera grape meaning that it has not been ‘altered’ over the years – it is one of the originals. A vinifera grape is far more susceptible to cold weather damage than a hybrid grape.
There are more than 200 varieties of the Muscat grape. The skin of the Muscat grape can vary from white to black. The Muscat grape is very popular in Nova Scotia vineyards, and it is usually the New York Muscat variety that you will find in Nova Scotia.
The Muscat grape is also known as Moscato in Australia and Moscatel in Spain. It is the main grape used to produce to Italian sparkling ‘Asti’ wines.
The Muscat grape is considered to produce some of the most aromatic wines in the world, and is one of the few grapes that produces a wine that smells exactly like the grape. In fact, the Muscat grape is so aromatic that its content in Tidal Bay wines is limited to no more than 15 per cent of the total volume so that the aromatics of the Muscat grape do no overpower the aromas of the Nova Scotia terroir-based aromatics.
At the vineyard
As you are sipping your wine over the next couple of months, next to your warm indoor fire, take a moment to think of the poor vineyard workers throughout the province that are currently braving the frigid winter temperatures to prune the vines for the upcoming season. All of the vines need to be pruned back, quite drastically, so that the vines will produce the grapes in a controlled fashion.
The pruning needs to be done while the plants are dormant. The once lush vineyards from last fall are now being reduced to little sticks by the vineyard workers and their pruning shears.
Controlling the growth of the vines, all designed to keeping the grapes in the ‘fruiting zone,’ helps immensely with the control of diseases, pest control, and with the cultivation of the grapes in the fall.
For a humorous look at the life of a wine taster/reviewer/sommelier, you should consider the book by the Canadian author Natalie MacLean titled Red, White, and Drunk All Over (ISBN 0-385-66154-1). MacLean has a very light-hearted and enjoyable way of describing the world of wine, sommeliers and winemakers. Recent troubles with MacLean’s wine reviews should not detract from this enjoyable read.
The Olympian Truro Daily News wine tasting panel recently tasted the 2012 Gaspereau Muscat. The grapes are grown, and the wine is produced, at the Gaspereau Vineyards under the watchful eye of award-winning winemaker Gina Haverstock. The vineyard is located in the Gaspereau Valley in Nova Scotia. It is available from your local NSLC for $19.99.
It is made from 100 per cent Muscat grapes.
When asked about producing her 2012 Muscat wine, Haverstock said, “In order to capitalize on all the aromatics, after we harvest the grapes and de-stem/crush them, we perform what is called a cold maceration or skin soak. During this skin soak the skins are left in contact with the juice for an extended period of time (under cooler conditions) before pressing. This coaxes even more aromatic from the skin to the juice, as well as some color. It is this that helps to give the Gaspereau Muscat such a robust aromatic nose and a hint of copper color (some of the color from the skin soak translates to the juice and then the wine).”
She further explained the production process as follows, “The gentle handling of the juice and a long, cool fermentation help to retain the lovely aromatics that were extracted from the soak. The nose of the finished wine shows intense tropical fruit aromas of lychee fruit and passion fruit with hints of pink grapefruit and fresh-cut mint. Despite the illusion of sweetness displayed by the nose, this wine finishes dry with a long grapefruit finish.”
Haverstock also described how some of the aromatics of the Muscat grape can be deceiving when tasting the wine, “We sometimes call this wine a 'trick wine' as many people expect it to taste sweet based on the fruity character on the nose but are pleasantly surprised by the dry but not piercingly-dry finish.”
Not only is Haverstock an award-winning winemaker, but she is also a sommelier, so she couldn’t resist offering our Grapevine readers some pairing recommendations for the Muscat.
“It is the perfect partner for dishes that express an equally intense aromatic character such as curry dishes, crab cakes and shellfish. Or try our personal favourite: Nova Scotia mussels steamed in Muscat with onions, peppercorns and garlic. It's amazing to taste hints of the beautiful Muscat profile in the mussels and to sip a glass of Muscat along with it. Divine.”
The Olympian tasting panel did not have the assistance of Haverstock’s comments prior to the tasting so it is quite remarkable how our tasting notes are in line with her comments. The tasting panel found that the 2012 Gaspereau Muscat had an aromatic nose of honey, lychee and white grapefruit.
It tasted of lychee, grapefruit and lemon. It was crisp, clean and fresh, and the panel felt that it would pair very well with seafood.
A standard glass of wine is considered to be five ounces. This bottle of wine was not quite a full glass, but it rated an impressive 4.3 ounces out of five.
Al is the chief flag-bearer for the Olympian Truro Daily News wine tasting panel, and you can send your wine questions or recommendations, to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.