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Muscat love is spreading.

Arise, Muscat lovers! Let us all hail an often unfairly disparaged grape that dates back to Biblical times and makes award-winning wine today.

America (Country Appellation)

Confessions of an IMU: A Call to Arms

Why has one of the most versatile grapes in the world been so frowned upon? Unjustified snobbishness for one.

But that prejudice is about to change if the IMUs have anything to say about it.

by Roger Dial
October 11, 2007

Don’t ask me why I am confessing now. It’s not that I’ve changed my views after all these years. I am as committed now as I was when I joined forty-odd years ago. Nor am I unaware of the danger of going public – of coming out of the cellar, so to speak. The enemy – the SAMs – are stronger than ever and this confession might well be my oenological obituary. But one can’t go on forever leading this double life – a SAM by day; an IMU by night.

I became an IMU during my early college days at Berkeley. Back then the campus was a cauldron of radical ideas and illicit pursuits. I was younger then. My palate may have been unsophisticated. The elders had not yet schooled me to the modern order of viticultural stratification. Before they could properly socialize me, I fell in with bad company – Bohemians, anarchists, poets, and the like! Boyishly, I rejected the trinity of the establishment: state capitalism, militarism and Bordeauxism.

Perhaps I was naïve. Some would say that I was simply too romantic; with age and maturity I would outgrow such infatuations of youth. It is certain that many of
Quady Winery specializes in Muscat-based dessert wines which consistently win awards.
my cohorts of those days have gone over to the enemy, becoming out and out SAMs. It seems like only yesterday when we met in the musty back rooms of used book emporiums, plotting anti-establishmentarian gestures whilst passing around a jug of Moscato. So many of those same people are to be found these days in country club locker rooms, enjoying the fruits of Lockheed and Lytton Industry dividends and sipping Screaming Eagle, and the like. SAMs to the core! Definitely card caring “SNOBS AGAINST MUSCAT”!

The SAMs are safe in their numbers and assured in their status; they need never fear that the dreaded epithet – WINO – will be hurled at them. Meanwhile, we dedicated guerilla fighters in the “INTERNATIONAL MUSCAT UNDERGROUND” must always keep on hand a supply of brown paper bags, and hold our seminars in culverts.

At the risk of immediate social ostracism, we IMUs must quietly disseminate the truth about Muscat; meanwhile continuing to fight the vicious “muscatel myths” propagated by the SAMs. We must tell people that Muscat has the longest history of any grape variety, and that it is at least arguable that Muscat is the mother of all the noble cépages so revered by the SAMs. Muscat was the most cherished fruit of Middle Eastern empires a thousand years before Christ. It was the treasure of the Phoenicians who trafficked it throughout the Mediterranean coast of Europe and Africa; just as many Greek and Roman soldiers, in their times, carried sprigs of Muscat to the savage hinterlands of Europe to remind them of the sweetness of home. No other grape variety has traveled so far and been disseminated so broadly as Muscat.

Muscat is definitely a lady; sometimes a goddess, a mistress, a mother, a blush-coloured beauty. The name Muscat, itself, comes from the essential constituent of perfume; and Muscat is nothing if not perfumy. It is the quintessential aromatic wine, sensuous, concentrated, and grapy in bouquet and flavour. Muscats carry the scents of roses, melons, pears and - more than any other wine - they smell of the grape from which they come. Whether fermented to dryness or stop
buy wineA wonderfully fragrant selection of Muscats is now available Direct From The Wineries.
Whether your preference is Blanc, Black , or Orange, you’ll find it in APPELLATION AMERICA’S online store.
fermented to dessert sweetness, Muscats evoke an expectation of lusciousness. In what has been called the “sugarless Middle Ages”, a Muscat wine was revered as an exotic flight into fantasy. Heroic Knights went to the Crusades armed with ample quantities of Muscat; their ladies sipped Muscat whilst they waited the return of their heroes.

No one knows the identity of the Mother of Muscats, but now there are countless varietal offspring in production, multipled by hundreds of national aliases. There is Frontignan, Alexandria, Canelli, and Hamburg. Add on Ottonel, New York and Lexia to name a few. Muscat varieties cover the color spectrum, with Muscat Blanc, Orange Muscat, Black Muscat and Brown Muscat. Undoubtedly Muscat is the most versatile grape in the world, making distinctive table wines, bubblies, aperitifs, digestifs as well as raisins and table fruit.


Coming Out…of the Cellar

Now that I am out of the cellar, I invite you, my readers, to also stand up for Muscat! Don’t wait another day to proclaim your right to worship the Muscat of your choice, be it New World or Old World; ancient stock or modern hybrid. Join IMU now!

All that is required to become a member of the INTERNATIONAL MUSCAT UNDERGROUND is that you declare your devotion in the comments box of this article. Tell us about your favorite Muscats.

READER FEEDBACK: To post your comments on this story, click here

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Featured Wines

Quady Winery 2006 Electra light as springtime, delicately sweet, refreshingly crisp, a bouquet of flowers with the taste of peach and melon.
buy wine 375ml $9.50, 750ml $12.75


Reader Feedback

Reader Comments... [12]

Michael Blaylock , Winemaker
Quady Winery, Madera, CA
Roger, it seems like only yesterday (only an old fart like me can think 1983 was yesterday) that I told my fellow aspiring practitioners of winemaking alchemy at Fresno State that I was going to work for Quady Winery making port and Muscat wines. With their derisive snickering still in my ears I found that Andy Quady had stumbled upon an ancient secret for turning Orange Muscat grapes into an elixir fit for kings and pharaohs. Our Essensia Orange Muscat dessert wine has risen, much like a Phoenix, as a vanguard in proclaiming the hedonistic virtues of Muscat. From those early 1980s until today we have been challenging the paradigm. The IMU has been a long time coming. I have a feeling that the rumble and ground swell has been repressed for too long. Forward Muscat Marauders!!!

Roger Dial , Publisher
Appellation America, CA
Michael, thanks for your comments. It could well be that us Muscat guys are just a bunch of old farts, as you say, but surely we can attribute our longevity, if not the other condition mentioned in your post, to our persistent consumption of Muscats. At any rate, if you keep on producing those beauties at Quady we can all test the longevity hypothesis...or just fade away in a blissful aromatic haze.
~ Roger

Dan Berger , Editor-at-Large
Appellation America, CA
Hi. I have been a silent, spiritual member of the IMU for a long time, though I didn't know there was a real society for me. I am the sole member of the MIA (Muscat Incognito Assn.), after futilely inviting some SAMs to join me. And now, thanks to you, I have a way to emerge from the closet! (It's hard to drink in the dark.) It's time to fling open millions of other doors and let other closeted IMUers out. There is no shame in liking Muscat! Call me a slut if you will. Moreover, I have another passion: the love of DRY Muscats! Yes, there is yet another category worthy of praise. Sugar is fine, but the dry version is a delight. Those of us who are truly dedicated are in love with the dry stuff that the Alsacienne pronounce moos-kah. This sub-category of Muscat is truly arcane, and in need of your support. (And there is no need for an IDMU.)

Roger Dial , Publisher
Appellation America, CA
Ah, yes, Herr Berger...dry Muscat is like romance on a "higher" plane, cerebral and seductive at the same time...suitable for us more mature (read: older) romantics.
~ Roger

Jim Anderson , Co-owner
The Anderson, Fortrose, Scottish Highlands
As an American living abroad, I carry with me an unconscious image of the "paper bag on a park bench" reputation of Muscat. Elsewhere, however, there is no such prejudice, as Muscat is recognized as a seminal variety of grape. One exception to that open-minded opinion was when the Quady Muscat wines were paired with haggis at our Burn's Night supper in January 2006. The Quadys themselves were there to host, and despite some bewildered "where's my whisky" expressions on the faces of some of the guests, the consensus was that the sweetness of Muscat was the perfect foil to the peppery spiciness of the haggis. We are proud to have the Quady dessert wines (as well as dry white Muscat from Alsace) on our wine list at The Anderson.

Roger Dial , Publisher
Appellation America, CA
Jim, you may finally have the key to a market "breakout" for Muscat..."the wine that'll lift yer kilt, laddie!" As a resident of New Scotland in Canada, I'm damn well not going to another Burns dinner without a dram or two of Muscat in the generous pour that accompanies the haggis.
~ Roger

Mike Pollard , Blogger
San Diego, CA
A Muscat here, a muscat there. And then there is the real deal -- Rutherglen Muscat from Victoria Australia (dating back to the 1850s-60s). Made from the Muscat a Petit Grains Rouge, or Brown Muscat, it is fortified, so there is alcohol to enhance all that sweet richness. Defined by age and residual sweetness into 4 wine styles, this is one of the great wines of the world and ridiculously inexpensive for the time and labor involved. The Muscat of Rutherglen Network made its way out from underground in 1995, primarily to address the loss of sales and falling consumption of Rutherglen Muscat. The eight founding members of the group are: All Saints Estate, Bullers, Campbells, Chambers, Morris, Pfeiffer, Seppelts, and Stanton & Killeen. This year the Australian Government’s Advancing Agricultural Industries program provided $500,000 AUD to The Muscat of Rutherglen group to enable the industry to undertake extensive domestic and international research into current consumer attitudes to fortified wines, research into alternative names for Tokay and Sherry, and develop strategies to communicate the changes to industry and consumers in domestic and international markets. Those Aussies lead the way, don’t they!

Tilak Sinha , Asst Sommelier
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford, CA
Been sipping and suggesting the moreish Quady Muscats all over the world. Great wines, period. Pavlova of soft, fluffy meringue baked to a crisp shell, lashings of whipped cream, bejeweled with seasonal fruits and berries and a chilled glass of Electra Orange Muscat or a Prunotto Moscato d'Asti...Lobster tail wok seared with a Thai green curry and fresh coconut milk with a Kabinet Muskateller from Dr Heger...Heirloom melon sorbets with Graff Family Vineyards July Muscat...Vintage Christmas pudd with brandy butter, custard and an ancient Chamber's Rutherglen Muscat...Guava pannacotta with Willi Opitz' BA Muscat Ottonel...Thanks for hearing the confession of this IMU. It's a relief to know that I've such esteemed company!

Tom Peay , Retired
San Diego, CA
I have enjoyed Quady dessert wines for years and absolutely love his Orange Muscat - Essensia. I recommend it to all my friends and ask for it restaurants that don't have it on their wine list. The only suggestion I have for improvement of Quady's outstanding wines is that he consider printing "Free Tibet" on his corks. I believe this small bit of advertising genius would convince some SAMs to give the Muscat a try and finally drop their misguided snobbery and join us IMUs.
~ Tom

Geoff Cadman , Novice Taster
Yorkshire, England
Dear Roger,
What a challenge you threw us but, undaunted, we set off in search of the amber nectar you so gaily, nay boldly, wafted under our cold, runny British noses. We had an awful job trying to acquire anything like the variety you expounded upon but I do believe we finally tracked the ultimate little devil down and simply had to tell (although I don't yet feel comfortable asking for full membership of the IMU). We found the aroma was at its most appealing after exposure to wood smoke through a stiff, swirling breeze, ideally with a `nip O` the North` aboot it, if ye 'ken? The one we sampled was very difficult to come by but eventually arrived via FedEx and we eagerly set about a sampling session. A little earthy when it first hit the front palate, after chewing it around a while and concentrating on a long swallow, its true character came through in a lingering afterburning, although by this time the sugary sensation one of your correspondents spoke of, had definitely passed `Go` and was headed for the Community Chest! Truth to tell, although we enjoyed it while it lasted, we don't think we could wait quite as long as for the next one to arrive. We actually suspect our one was definitely a little "off" so could we ask if you know of anywhere in North Yorkshire that could supply us?
Yours, A&G.

PS. Do you recommend your particular favourite brand of Muscrat to be barbequed or broiled?

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