KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Muscat love
Bay Area Bites: culinary rants & raves from bay area foodies and professionals
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Thursday, August 18, 2005
Muscat love
Last week I went to the Ferry Building for some Hog Island oysters and a stroll around. As you might expect, I happened in to the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and browsed the aisles. Much to my delight, I came across a half-bottle of something most intriguing: Rutherglen Muscat by Chambers.
I vaguely recalled reading an article a couple of years ago describing the Rutherglen wine region in Victoria, Australia. Specializing in the Muscat grape and using the solera process to produce a rich, consistent non-vintage designated blend, the vintners in Rutherglen were trying to prevent the disappearance of the distinctively styled dessert wines in the face of general global disinterest in sweet wines. And here was a bottle of the very stuff! I quickly paid up and rushed home to find out what I could about the bottle.
With a modest amount of digging I unearthed the remembered article. For those who follow such things, the Wine Spectator said that this wine "...presents a tower of nut, coffee and black cherry flavors that keep building upon one another, culminating explosively with more cherry, caramel and coffee notes on the long finish." Okay, but what's the wine REALLY like? There's only one way to find out, so I pulled the cork and got my nose into the glass.
The color of the wine was a rich amber, suggesting the wine's years of repose in barrel oxidizing into decadent richness. Aromas of coffee, Brazil nut, apricot, clove, and grapefruit blossom danced around the glass. On the palate, the Muscat was rich and unctuous. Flavors of sweet raisin, caramel and apricot were, well, almost explosive, and the finish was majestically long. Mmmmm. I instantly felt remorse for not rallying to the cause of saving this style of wine sooner -- but fully intend to make up for lost time.
The back label of the bottle had quite a bit of information on it, and while I am not usually a fan of back label copy, a couple of things were of particular interest. First, it suggested that the Muscat could be enjoyed as a 'between dinner drink'. I'm not sure what exactly that is, but I intend to have one every time I dine from now on. Second, the label points out that, owing to the high alcohol content of the wine (18.5%), the half bottle I purchased could be re-corked and enjoyed over several months, much as a bottle of Port. As a little of this wonderful wine goes a long way, it's good to know that one needn't consume the entire half-bottle in one sitting lest it go bad.
Good on you, vintners of Rutherglen. Your Muscats are a little slice of sweet heaven.

Wine information:

Chambers
Muscat Rutherglen
Rosewood Vineyards
Non-Vintage
Alcohol 18.5%
$15 for a 375 ml half-bottle at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant
And one final note: I'd recommend tasting this wine in a Port-style glass, or at least a wine glass without a very big bowl. Due to the higher degree of alcohol, a big balloon glass or brandy snifter might accentuate the alcohol over the wonderful aromatics and that wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
 
 

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