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Muscat And Muscatel - California Wines

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These are among the sweetest of the California dessert wines and the most in demand after sherry and port.

Muscat wines are of very ancient origin and were mentioned in literature more than Zooo years ago. They have always been great favorites and are produced in many parts of the world. The great center of California's muscat cultivation lies in the San Joaquin Valley, where the grapes attain their maximum sugar content, owing to the warm climate.

Standard-quality California muscat wines are usually called "Muscatel" while the finer wines are often labeled as "Muscat" or with the varietal designation. All possess the typical aroma and flavor of muscat grapes and are sweet, rich, and fruity.

Varietals include Muscat Frontignan or Muscat Canelli and Malvasia Blanca in the whites and Aleatico and Malvasia in the reds. Black Muscat (or Black Muscatel) and Red Muscat are names given to wines produced from dark muscat grapes.

VARIETALS (WHITE) Muscat Fsontignan or Muscat Canelli One of the finest California muscats, delicate, golden or russet amber in color, and very sweet, with a concentrated muscat perfume and flavor. It is produced notably in the Livermore, Napa, and Santa Clara valleys.

The French name is derived from the town of Frontignan in Southern France, well known for its muscat wines. The grape originated in Canelli, near Asti, in the Italian province of Piedmont, where it is famed for some of Italy's best muscat wines, both still and sparkling, including Asti Spumante.

In California the grape is best known under its Italian name of Muscat Canelli, or Muscat di Canelli, while the wine it yields is known under both its Italian name and the French appellation of Muscat Frontignan, or Muscat de Frontignan.

Malvasia Bianca (White Malvasia) The dessert wine from the muscat-flavored grape of the same name. It must not be confused with the table wine of that name (see there) or with the red Malvasia wines of both table and dessert type (see there).

Malvasia Blanca is produced as a dessert wine in the Napa Valley.

VARIETALS (RED) Aleatico A soft, fruity, aromatic dessert wine, light red in color and sometimes called a red muscatel. It is not often met with, as plantings of the grape are limited. Some is produced in the Cucamonga district. The grape has also been used to produce a table wine of the same name .

Malvasia (Red Malvasia) Another light red dessert wine produced notably in the Cucamonga district. Not to be confused with the white Malvasia dessert wine (see there) or the red and white Malvasia table wines.

GENERICS California Muscatel This wine varies from light to dark amber and from sweet to very sweet. In order to achieve its full muscat character it should be made from a considerably higher percentage of muscat grapes than the required legal minimum of 51 per cent. For the purpose of this Guide the wine is generic in so far as the particular muscat variety from which it has been produced is not indicated.

The Muscat of Alexandria, pre-eminently a raisin grape, is the variety most generally used for producing the wine labeled "California Muscatel:" The grape does extremely well in the San Joaquin Valley and in Southern California, particularly in the Escondido district in San Diego County. The more aromatic Orange Muscat yields higher quality muscatels, as do the delicate Muscat Canehi, or Frontignan, and the Malvasia bianca, the latter two being marketed under their varietal names.

Black Muscat or Black Muscatel The name given to high-quality red muscatels, derived from various grapes, depending on the grower. It is produced notably in Santa Clara County from Muscat Hamburg grapes and in Southern Alameda from a blend of Muscat Hamburg and Aleatico.

Use and Service-Muscats and muscatels are most appropriate when served in the afternoon and evening with cookies, cake, or sandwiches, or at dinner with a sweet dessert. The white types are also used in cooking, especially with ham, and make a refreshing drink when served in a tall glass with ice and a slice of lemon, the acidity o$ which perfectly counterbalances the sweetness of the wine.