What’s in a name?

18 03 2011

By Aliceann Toole

Factoid: There are more than 5,000 varieties of wine grapes.

A recent September Oaks visitor asked if the Muscadine grape is the same as the Muscat. The answer is “no,” but there is confusion about “musc” grapes, and explanations can get complicated in a hurry. I’ll try to boil this down to the simplest terms:

The Muscat Blanc grape is thought to be the “alpha” or oldest grape, with centuries of documented history around the Mediterranean. It is used primarily for semi-sweet and sweet dessert wines. The Muscat of Alexandria is another ancient grape grown in Mediterranean climates, although wines produced from it are considered inferior to Muscat Blanc wines. Muscat of Alexandria grapes grown in California are used primarily for raisins.

Muscadet (or Muscadekke) is one of the white grapes grown in Bordeaux. It has a grapey flavor, but is not related to the Muscat grape. The best-known Muscadet wines are the sweet Tokays produced in Australia.

The Noble muscadine grape.

The Muscadine (Muscadinia) grape is a separate branch of known vinifera (see note below) grapes. It is a hearty species with large fruit with thick skin that grows primarily in the southeast US and Mexico. The September Oaks muscadine vineyard includes the Noble and Carlos varieties, which are primarily wine grapes. We also grow Doreen, Magnolia, Tara and Triumph varieties that may be used in wines, but also make good eating.

The Carlos muscadine variety.

(Note: Vinifera refers to a grape from a cultivated variety of the common grape vine of Europe. The appearance of Vitis vinifera has been dated to between 130 to 200 million years ago, with the “human relationship” to the plant dating from the Neolithic period. More on this another time.)

To learn more about any type of grape, a website called Cookery Online has a great index of variety names and descriptions.This glossary is further broken down into “classic” and “lesser/crossed” varieties.( http://www.cookeryonline.com/mealexperience/Grapes/Supergigantic.html)

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