This post is about Rutherglen Muscat – and the start of a New Year review of my 2021 to this, the start of 2022.
I spend most of my waking hours thinking, drinking, or linking wine into my life.
I’m so, so lucky to write about wine and drinks in my weekly and fortnightly columns.
Not least, I’m proud that One Foot in the Grapes is now helping people gain qualifications in wine and spirits via courses One Foot runs on behalf of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
And do I tell you about all of that?
Not often enough.
One Foot in the Grapes is no longer just a holding place for words and spaces about drinks; it’s also the starting point of many people’s own wine journeys.
Blame the sentimentality on the negroni I’ve just sipped!
Rutherglen Muscat Winemakers
Before Christmas 2020 I joined a virtual wine tasting with winemakers from Australia.
Here’s an abridged version of my story published in January 2021
Rutherglen Muscat is a luscious, delicious, delight.
If you’ve not heard of this fortified wine, strap yourself in.
When you think of Australian wine, you may conjure up bold Barossa shiraz, or a delicious Margaret River chardonnay.
But up to the 1950s fortified wine was the most important style of Australian wine.
This changed from the 60s when table wines took over and today fortified wine accounts for only 2% of global Australian wine sales.
Luckily one of them is made in heaven.
Rutherglen Muscat, as one wine producer told me, is both “sensual and sensorial” and “a bit sexy, full of complexity and flavour”.
Jane Campbell, of Rutherglen wine producers Campbells was one of four producers on a special video chat I joined, organised by Wine Australia.
I’d been invited to immerse myself in the wonder of Rutherglen Muscat, one of the world’s headiest wines.
If you imagine rose petals, plum pudding, raisins, dried fruit, Turkish delight, caramel, coffee and Christmas spices you’d only be halfway to understanding what a Rutherglen Muscat tastes like.
It is rich, full-bodied, luscious and simply dreamy.
Rutherglen is one of the key regions for Australian fortified wines and is about a three hour drive north of Melbourne.
It is an ideal location to grow brown muscat grapes – Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains Rouge – which are at the heart of this sticky, sweet, nectar of loveliness.
Wendy Killeen of Stanton & Killeen producers explains: “Our summers are long and the temperatures range from the mid 30s in growing seasons, even up to 45 degrees.
“We’re very lucky in that we’re close to the alpine region which allows us to grow muscat grapes that have balance and a nice acidity.
“The wonderful mountain air comes down the valley into the vineyards in the evening which slows down that ripening process.”
In Rutherglen, the muscat grapes are left on the vines as long as possible to deepen and accentuate the sugars and flavours.
Jen Pfeiffer, of Pfeiffer Wines, says she looks for “dimpling” on a grape. “When a firm berry starts to shrivel and show wrinkles, that’s the magic of Rutherglen Muscat.
“We get as much as we can out of the dimpled berries. They’ve got the intensity and the flavour and the sugar.”
Rutherglen Muscat is a fortified wine, which means the grapes are allowed to ferment and transition into alcohol.
But that fermentation is stopped by the winemakers, with the addition of a grape spirit.
It kills the yeast, leaving unfermented sugars behind.
What’s left is a sweet wine, high in alcohol and full of the grape’s signature flavours.
Rutherglen Muscat is aged and blended, often in a solera, where older and younger wines age together in barrels.
The youngest are sold after aging three to five years.
Other styles include the classic, aged from 6-10 years and the “rare” classification with wines over 15 years old.
Stephen Chambers, of Chambers Rosewood Vineyards, said: “Our philosophy is that yes, these wines are sweet. But that’s not the sum total of them. It’s about what else is going on which makes it such an enjoyable wine to try.”
Here’s some of their wines: [Stockists and prices based on January 2021]
Campbell’s Rutherglen Muscat (£12.99, 37.5cl, Waitrose); Chambers Rutherglen Old Vine Muscat (£22, 37.5cl online at Oz Wines); Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat (£17.99, 37.5cl, The Wine Society) and Pfeiffer Rutherglen Muscat (£17.95, 50cl, online at mrwheelerwine.com); Morris Old Premium Rare Muscat (£99, 50cl, online www.ozwines.co.uk)
I’d love you to love Rutherglen Muscat as much as I do.
This first published in several titles in the North West. Read the full piece online at the Lancashire Post
Wine Australia invited me to virtually meet the Rutherglen Muscat winemakers.