Moscato, a delightful and aromatic wine made from the Muscat grape variety, is thought to have originated in the ancient Mediterranean region where the grapes thrived. The Muscat grape, one of the oldest known grape varieties in the world, has a history spanning over 2,000 years dating back to the former Persian empire (now modern-day Iran). It subsequently spread throughout the Mediterranean region, extending to countries like Greece and Italy, where its distinct fragrance and sweetness made it highly desirable, leading to its cultivation in various regions. One of the first historical mentions of Moscato can be found in ancient Greece, where the grape was known as "Anathelicon Moschaton".
The Greeks revered this grape variety for its aromatic qualities and often used it in winemaking as it continued to grow in popularity. This growth led to its introduction to the Roman Empire where Moscato gained significant recognition as a prized wine. It was beloved by emperors as well as aristocrats for its unique flavour profile and the grape's intense yet enchanting fragrance. It was this captivating aroma which earned it the Roman name "Muscum," which means musk, and led to Moscato wines being enjoyed on various occasions, from lavish banquets to everyday meals.
During the decline of the Roman Empire, Moscato production and cultivation continued in different regions; however, it was in Italy, particularly in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions, where Moscato found its true home and thrived. Italy has since become renowned for producing some of the world's finest Moscato wines, with the Piedmont region possessing the ideal growing conditions. The hilly landscapes, temperate climate, and calcareous soils of this area provide the perfect environment for Muscat grape cultivation. Over time, Moscato's popularity transcended Italy, making its way into international markets where it steadily experienced widespread popularity. This wine is now produced in various countries around the world, including Australia, France, Spain, South Africa, Chile and of course, Argentina.
The Muscat grape variety has also been used to create a range of wine styles, from still and semi-sparkling to fully sparkling and fortified. Its fruity and approachable nature, coupled with its versatility, has made it a favourite among wine enthusiasts, especially those who enjoy sweeter styles of wine. Moscatel is the name for Muscat in Spain and Portugal, and generally refers to the Muscat of Alexandria. In Spain, Moscatel is usually vinified sweet and is most commonly grown in Malaga, Alicante, and Valencia. In Portugal, Moscatel can be used to craft the sweet wines of Madeira, and while it's sometimes used in Spain's sweet Sherry production, the Pedro Ximenez grape is more common.
Argentina, with its favourable climate, diverse terroir, and a passion for winemaking, has developed a reputation for crafting exceptional Moscato wines that capture the essence of this grape variety. The country's winemaking heritage, which began centuries ago, was given a boost when European immigrants, primarily from Italy and Spain, brought their viticultural knowledge and traditions to the country in the 19th century. The immigrants also brought with them the Muscat grape, which thrived in its new, fertile home and ultimately resulted in the production of the sweet wine of Muscat: the Moscato. Argentina's various wine regions offer a range of microclimates and terroirs that contribute to the grape's vibrant flavours and aromas, but it is Mendoza that is the most notable region for Moscato production.
The sandy and alluvial soils found in the region have allowed Argentine vintners to craft Moscato wines that range from still and semi-sparkling, to fully sparkling and even fortified wines. Each style showcases the grape's inherent sweetness, aromatic profile, and vibrant fruit flavours unearthing what would become the standout choice for wine lovers, Moscato Dulce. This wine style offers a luscious and seductive sweetness, balanced by crisp acidity and intense aromatics, making it a favourite amongst vinophiles who appreciate its easy-drinking nature. Argentina's Moscato wines are celebrated for their intense floral and fruity aromas which exude fragrant notes of orange blossom, jasmine, ripe peaches, apricots, as well as tropical fruits. This creates an enchanting sensory experience with the wine's naturally lower alcohol content adding to its appeal, making it a refreshing choice for those seeking a lighter wine option. Today, Thursday Food introduces five of-the-moment Moscato wines from Argentina:
Trapiche Vineyards Moscato is a 100 per cent Moscato wine made from vineyards located in Maipú, in the province of Mendoza. This wine is a sweet Moscato that displays fragrant aromas of orange peel, peach blossom, rose petals, and fruit cocktail. It is medium-bodied with a wonderful and lively freshness.
Bodega Norton 1895 Colección Moscato is a 100 per cent Moscato wine made in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza by Bodega Norton. It is pale yellow with light golden hues expressing intense tropical aromas like pineapple and stone fruits along with floral notes and a delicate touch of citrus. It is fresh and crispy in the mouth offering flavours of lime and lemon in its mildly acidic finish.
Abito Moscatel is produced in Maipú, Mendoza, from 100 per cent Moscatel de Alejandria grapes grown at Finca Bautem by Bodega Abito Wines. This is a naturally sweet grape that expresses its characteristic freshness, accompanied by a natural sweetness.
Bodegas Dos Familias Milo Moscato is made from grapes picked during a natural sweet wine harvest at the end of April, when the vines have the maximum level of sugar per kilogram. The wine, made in Mendoza by Bodega Dos Familias, expresses tropical aromas of sweet honey, and ripened peaches.
Emilia Nieto Senetiner Sweet Natural Moscatel is 100 per cent made from Moscatel de Alejandria grapes by Bodega Nieto Senetiner in Mendoza. The wine is a pale yellow that slightly changes to the colour of steel expressing aromas of white fares and citrus fruits. On the palate, its delicate acidity gives it subtlety combining gently with the remnant of natural grape sugar.
Whether it's the enchanting aromas, the vibrant flavours, or the inherent charm of the Muscat grape, Argentina's contribution to the world of Moscato wine cannot be overlooked. The country's diverse wine regions and passionate winemakers continue to craft Moscato wines that captivate wine enthusiasts, offering a taste of Argentina's rich winemaking heritage and the joyous spirit of this beloved wine varietal. Salud!