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Muscat grapes.
Photo by KetaiBlogger on Flickr.
License: Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.

Muscat enjoys a rich history in the wine world, and is possibly the oldest grape in existence. The grape is widely grown and has a number of different names.

Muscat bottle

A fortified Muscat from Rivesaltes AOC in
the Languedoc. Photo by Hagen Graf
License: Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.

Muscat's flavor, while regarded as lacking in elegance by some of the more snobbish wine critics, can often be rich and tasty. What makes it distinctive is that, unlike most other wine grapes in the world, it actually tastes like grapes. The unique chemical compounds that make up this flavor also may have health benefits.

Muscat makes a number of different alcoholic beverages, many of which are worthy of discussion. Muscat wines go into the production of Pisco, an increasingly popular type of South American brandy. Pisco is produced in Chile and Peru, and is included in a few cocktails such as the Pisco Sour. Muscat also plays a part in the development of Metaxa, the prominent liquor of Greece.

The more minor places for Muscat production are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Morocco, New Zealand, and Turkey, but these wines prove Muscat's versatility. In the Austro-Hungarian region, Muscat is one of only a few grapes allowed in the Tokaji blend. Tokaji's long history, unique flavors, and distinguishing golden color make it one of the more identifiable wines of the world, and its reputation is generally good. Elsewhere in Austria and Germany, regular table Muscats are produced. Greece produces some great Muscat outside of Metaxa production. Portugal, Spain and South Africa are also worthy of mention. Fortified wines and experimental offerings mostly characterize American Muscat, which is still developing.

Australia, France, and Italy produce some fine Muscat wines. Brown Muscat, which is produced in Australia, is considered to be one of the best fortified wines in the world. Its lusciously sweet flavor is most apparent in wines from the Rutherglen area. In Italy, Moscato d'Asti is a good sparkling wine based entirely on Muscat. Perhaps Muscat from Alsace is the best of everything; these wines are dry and still, and appeal to conventional wine drinkers.

If you like grape-flavored wines that are light and low in alcohol, you will probably like Muscat.