Angelo van Dyk
COMING SOON: OUR SKINSY MUSCAT
If you have ever travelled to Oman, you will likely have travelled via the city of Muscat, the country’s capital. Outside of the Arabian Gulf however, Muscat is a word that carries little significance. Until you step into the world of wine, that is.
There are very few South African wines that carry the same prestige in an international context such as Vin de Constance. Mention it in wine circles, and you are usually greeted with ‘wows’ or ‘oooos’. It’s an iconic drop, mentioned in the writings of Jane Austen and ranking among some of Napoleon’s favourite choice of tipple. The Vin de Constance is a sweet wine, produced in Constantia, Cape Town, and made from a grape called Muscat. One of the first planted varieties in the Cape, Muscat very quickly became one of the staples when plantings began to roll out on a more commercial scale, before it fell out of vogue and was replaced with sexier varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. However, its significance in creating a foundation on which the South African wine trade was built can’t be overlooked.
Muscat is also one of those grapes that has many different clones and thus, many different names. Muscat d’Alexandrie, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Moscato, Moscatel, Gelber Muskateller, to name but a few, all refer to different types of Muscat within the wider family. In South Africa, locals refer to it as Hanepoot, and here they will either produce sweet wines, or fortify it (the act of adding a grape spirit or brandy to the wine to bump up the alcohol).
Muscat falls into the family of wine grapes that we like to refer to as ‘aromatic’. As the name suggests, they generally tend to have very fragrant and opulent aromas on the nose. Other grapes in this category include the likes of Riesling and Gewürztraminer. And it’s because of these sweet and floral aromatics, that Muscat is typically considered to be a grape variety destined for sweet wine production. However, some of the most exciting examples of the grape are made in a dry style, usually with a touch of skin maceration, which gives it a slightly orange tinge to the colour, but also adds a beautiful texture to the wines.
This year, we have created a skin-contact version using Muscat d’Alexandrie picked from the Breedekloof. It is a block that is farmed conventionally, and although that is something that we are hoping to change in years to come (conversations with farmers pending), we were really happy with the quality of the fruit we received, and the resulting wine should be really exciting. We’re hesitant to label this an orange wine, because I think the short 7-day maceration has added a fantastic texture and mouthfeel to the wine, but doesn’t have the same influence on tannic structure compared to some other traditional macerated Muscats. We’re still cooking up a name for it (we’ve got a few stewing that leans into the sentimental and nostalgia), but we are super excited to bottle and release this in the new year. You can expect it to hit the shelves in February / March of 2023.