All About Muscat Grapes

Ninety-nine percent of the world’s wine production is sourced from the species Vitis vinifera in which the Muscat grapes belong. It is interesting to know how this particular variety of grapes had become so popular and widespread throughout the world.

Muscat grapes can be found growing in abundance around the world, mainly, in areas with temperate climate, such as California, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, Israel, Germany, Portugal, Oregon, Hungary, Canada, Italy, Albania, Turkey, and Slovenia among others.

Muscat grape is the only grape able to produce wine with the same aroma as that of the fruit. Though low yielding, the vine itself is sturdy and vigorous with medium size very dark green leaves. Fruit bunches are medium sized, cylindrical in shape and elongated, similar to a chardonnay bunch. The color of the grapes ranges from white to almost black. Though Muscat ripens early, it is often left out on the vine till the fruit starts to shrivel in order to produce grapes with higher natural sugar content.

Muscat grapes are very versatile and are used in a variety of wine styles. The sugary Italian Asti Spumante, the sweet and strong Australian fortifieds, the South African Constantia, the Pisco brandy popular in Chile and Peru, the Metaxa brandy liqueur from Greece, France's Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise- a fortified wine with delicious orange aromas and Clairette de Die- a sparkling white wine with a fruity musky palate are just a few of the many fascinating drinks extracted from this fruit.

Muscat is known to be the oldest domesticated variety of grapes. Indeed, University of Pennsylvania scientists examined pots from the burial mound of King Midas and found out that Muscat grapes were a key ingredient to the alcoholic beverage served at his funeral feast.

Muscat grapes probably originated from Greece although the independent sultanate of Muscat, south-east of the Arabian Peninsula may have something to do with it. There is no doubt however that a Roman soldier or perhaps a Phoenician trader brought it from Italy to Roman France. Early records showed it was shipped from the port of Frontignan in south-west France during the reign of Charlemagne.

Romans took the variety further through France and Germany while Greeks took it to Crimea in the Soviet Union. Egyptians sent cuttings south to what is now known as South Africa. The Egyptian traders gave the Africans Muscat of Alexandria, however, it was the European immigrants that introduced cuttings of Muscat a Petits Grains to the African people.

Muscat was officially introduced into Australia by the Busby Collection of 1832. In 1844, it was endorsed by Macarthur as a suitable plant variety for Australian weather conditions. However, many of the early vine cuttings found their way into Australia through South Africa. Cuttings and seeds coming from South Africa account for most Australian early agricultural imports. The Americas received Muscat wines together with its early Spanish and Italian immigrants.