This week, I found myself at my favorite local wine shop looking for some unusual finds when the owners pointed me in the direction of this variety. The proprietors know my affinity for the obscure and are always eager to help me find something new. Muskateller is an indigenous grape to Europe, presumably from the Middle East. It got transported to regions around Europe, possibly by the Phoecians. The first documented Gelber Muskateller in Austria dates back to around 1400 AC. It is a yellow skinned version of Muscat a Petit Grains, an ancient grape variety and one of the most common muscat varieties.
The bottle I purchased was from Wohlmuth Winery, a family owned property for over 200 years. I’ve read some romantic stories of wineries but the amount of passion necessary for this winery to produce wines from their vineyards is unparalleled to any story I have seen so far. The winery is located in the southern Styria town of Kitzeck im Sausal. They own some of the steepest vineyards in all of Europe, with some having upto a 90% incline. Needless to say, there is no machinery that can navigate such terrain so the land is completely manually maintained and harvested. In addition to this, the soil is slate. This region boasts rock formed from the primordial sea during the Paleozoic era, over 400 million years ago. When new vines get planted, the slate is broken up by hammers and the vine is then worked into the underlying soil by hand.The slate radiates the warmth of the sunlight, helping to ripen the grapes in the cooler climate. It also lends a great minerality to the wines. The soil is less than fertile and doesn’t retain much water. Both of these attributes are great for the grapes. This keeps the grapes small and concentrates their vibrant flavors.
With the exuberance my local wine shop owners had when they recommended this bottle, it had to be the first I opened of the few I purchased. When I poured my first glass of the pale lemon liquid, I couldn’t ignore the lively aromatics. I also noted a sparse rim of dainty bubbles dotting the edge of the goblet. While the wine glistened in the light, I could see a slight haze to the wine, making me wonder if the wine was filtered before bottling. While this is standard practice, unfiltered or fined (where an agent is added to the wine to pull microscopic particles out that may become visible later) are becoming common. Filtering and fining can help increase the shelf life of wines but are done by most wineries because the consumer expects perfectly clear wines free of these particulates. The nose consists of mild nutmeg, fresh peaches, ripe pineapple, elderflower, and juicy pear. On the palate, the acidity isn’t overwhelming but still crisp and refreshing. It had a moderate level of alcohol but was light bodied and bone dry. The flavors on the palate transformed to tropical fruits such as papaya and mango with hints of key lime and pineapple. This is all followed up by the suave leanness of the minerality provided by the slate soil. The wine lingered on the palate, slowly fading but never quite vanishing. It was a fantastic bottle that I will need a couple more of for warmer weather! Tonight, however, it was great with a basic chicken alfredo that had no overpowering flavors to overshadow the wine. That brings my count to 174 wine varieties!