Wine History #1: Muscat of Alexandria and the Origins of Winemaking

Wine History #1: Muscat of Alexandria and the Origins of Winemaking

About midway through last year Gerald our wine manager came across a little discovery on the far eastern side of the Echo Ridge property. Hidden in the eastern corner of the Estate Chardonnay block were three rows of vines baring unusually large fruit. Upon closer inspection it was determined these vines were not Chardonnay but Muscat of Alexandria, an ancient white wine grape and one of the oldest genetically unmodified varieties in existence.

Its name comes from the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which in ancient times was a key naval and trading port in the Mediterranean. The ancient Egyptians were among the first civilisations to undertake a primordial form of winemaking. Muscat of Alexandria was favoured by the Egyptians as it thrives in hot arid climates and is highly susceptible to the cold during the flowering process.

In terms of prestige and popularity, ancient times were a high point for Muscat of Alexandria where it was enjoyed by likes of Cleopatra and Caesar. But since that its status has largely fallen to that of a mere table grape or some cheap bubbles. It produces a simple and sweet wine that lacks the complexity and depth of its cousins Muscat Blanc and Petits Grains. We have made outstanding wines from these varieties before and they are available on our store.

But we haven’t lost hope for Muscat of Alexandria and we appreciate the connection the grape has to the history of winemaking. Last year marked the first time we harvested the fruit and we spent some time playing around with different blends. Although we didn’t quite end up producing something we were confident with we learnt a lot. I’d say given the right conditions, this year we might be able to produce something really special. Stay tuned!

Click to view Muscats

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