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A Great Finishing Touch
Muscat Canelli Will Win Your Guests Over to Dessert Wine
October 26, 2007
Sometime in the next couple of months, you are going to have a big dinner with friends and family that you simply don't want to have end. Isn't it great when that happens? You've been eating for hours and you've already had some lovely wines, but there's plenty more laughing and talking in all of you. What should you do about the wine? At this point, many people go for Port or other significant dessert wines, or maybe even Cognac. We prefer something lighter, simpler and less alcoholic. We reach for Muscat -- specifically an American wine called Muscat Canelli.
A Lot of Territory
Muscat is an ancient grape and there are several
main varieties. The finest variety is Muscat Blanc à Petits
Grains, which is the one usually called Muscat Canelli in the U.S.
For years, our favorite lighter Muscat wine has been Moscato d'Andrea
from Robert Pecota Winery in California, which is made from Muscat
Canelli. We wondered if there were many other Muscat Canellis out there
and how they were, overall. We checked stores nationwide and ultimately
chose a large sample. These tend to be made in very small quantities,
so, in this case, we went particularly deep to get a good sample. We
ordered Texas wines from a large store in Texas, for instance, bought
some made in Missouri, found a good selection from California's Temecula
Valley at shoptemeculawines.com and got some from wineries in some
other states from a Web site called appellationamerica.com. With an
Internet connection, a little time and a bit of creativity, most people
now can order all sorts of interesting wines online, and this is one
Having a Wonderful Time
Of course, they were not all winners. Some were too sweet and heavy, without the necessary balancing acidity. These wines should ooze charm, not sugar. And unfortunately, there's not much room for error in these wines. Because they are best when they are light and airy, even just a little too much of anything can make them unbalanced and clumsy. But overall, the wines were lovely and perfect for after-dinner conversation. Generally, the wines in our sample from California were best, with more of the essential balance of light and sweet.
Our favorite, once again, was the Pecota, which always makes us feel like we're in the middle of a field of flowers. ("This makes me think of Easter," said Dottie, recalling Grandma Dot's brown-sugar basted ham set in a halo of peaches and oranges.) It's a happy wine that's best served with cookies and close friends.
Readers often ask us how long to age various wines. Our response is that, truth be told, you can never tell for sure, and we were reminded of that during this tasting. We would most certainly recommend that you buy and drink Muscat Canelli as young as possible. Good ones taste like a soufflé -- light and ephemeral -- and you wouldn't want to eat an old soufflé. But in the course of this tasting, we decided to open a 1997 Pecota Muscat that had been sitting in the cellar for no good reason -- and it was pretty darn spectacular: rich and dark, with ripe, roasted mangoes, oranges and carambolas, sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg and coconut (yep, coconut). It was amazingly light despite its richness.
It probably will take some effort to find a Muscat Canelli. Many stores won't have any and it's unlikely you'll find a big selection anywhere. But they're out there -- we bought ours from six states. So our advice is that sometime soon, long before your next big dinner party, call around and see if you can find one. Then, after dinner, don't ask your friends if they want to try a sweet wine -- they'll likely say no. Just open and pour. The wine will do the rest.
The Dow Jones Muscat Canelli Index
NOTE: Wines are rated on a scale that ranges: Yech, OK, Good, Very Good,
Delicious, and Delicious! These are the prices we paid at wine stores
in California, Idaho, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Texas. Prices vary
• Melanie Grayce West contributed to this column.
You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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