Few wines have such an impressive rich taste as Rutherglen's famous Fortifieds, especially the Muscat.
Such rich, opulent fruit is harvested late in the season (into April and May) to allow the gorgeous fruit to acheive a high level of natural sugar content before harvesting. The climate is known for a balmy Autumn with few frosts allowing this to occur. Different soils in the Rutherglen area create different styles of Muscat - lighter sandier ones near the Murray are more delicate and perfumed, whereas the rich loams higher up produce bigger more heady wines with raisin and chocolate notes.
It's this, together with an extended barrel maturation that produce the most ideal match for Christmas cake.
Christmas cake, with its dried fruits and sweetness are the perfect match for this style of wine. I like to add some of Spice Bazaar's world renowned "Ras el Hanout" spice mix into such cakes to add a new level of aromatics and sweetness.
Other food matches include cheeses - cheddar, washed rind and even powerful blue cheeses also make for a perfect pairing with muscat, especially when served with quince paste and freshly shelled nuts.
Surprisingly, Muscat can work with savoury items. Great served over ice as an aperitif to kick start the appetite, with soups, terrines, pate, charcuterie, roasted figs, even spicy curries where the sweetness of the wine serves to counter the heat of the dish. Experimentation is half the fun!
Here are the 4 classifications of Muscats in Rutherglen:
Rutherglen Muscat – is the foundation of the style; displaying the fresh raisin aromas, rich fruit, clean spirit and great length of flavour on the palate which are the mark of all the Muscats of Rutherglen. Average age 3-5 years. Residual sweetness 180-240 grams per litre.
Classic Rutherglen Muscat – displays a greater level of richness and complexity, produced through the blending of selected parcels of wine, often matured in various sizes of oak cask to impart the distinctive dry ‘rancio’ characters produced from maturation in seasoned wood. Average age 6-10 years. Residual sweetness 200-280 grams per litre.
Grand Rutherglen Muscat – takes the flavour of Rutherglen Muscat to a still higher plane of development, displaying a new level of intensity, depth and concentration of flavour, mature ranciocharacters, and a complexity which imparts layers of texture and flavour. Average age 11-19 years. Residual sweetness 270-400 grams per litre.
Rare Rutherglen Muscat – is rare by name and by nature. These are the pinnacle Rutherglen Muscats – fully developed and displaying the extraordinary qualities that result from the blending of selected parcels of only the very richest, and most complete wines in the cellar. Rare Rutherglen Muscats are only bottled in tiny quantities each year, but for those privileged to taste them, these are wines of breathtaking complexity, texture and depth of flavour. Minimum age 20+ years. Residual sweetness 270-400 grams per litre.
Topaque is the "other" fortifed wine from the area, considered to be a lighter, finer wine than Rutherglen Muscat with flavours of candied fruits, honey, toffee and a distinctive cold tea character. The topaque grape stems from Hungary, but the one used to make Rutherglen Muscat - the high quality Muscat a Petits Grains Rouge (muscat with little red berries) is from France. The local winemakers refer to it simply as Rutherglen Brown Muscat.
Wineries producing fantastic Muscats include: Morris, Campbells, Stanton and Killeen, Rosemount, Pfeiffer, Bullers, All Saints
Zip out and pick one up and see what its all about!