The white grape variety probably originates from Italy or Greece, or more widely expressed "from the Mediterranean". It is the noblest but not most common variety from the large group of Muscatel (see general information there). The French name Muscat Blanc is most commonly used worldwide, the full name after the berry shape is Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains Ronds (Petits Grains Ronds = small round berries). Around 300 synonyms testify to its great age and worldwide distribution. There is hardly any wine-growing country where it is not cultivated. Some of them are varieties with the berry colours white (by far the most common), yellow, grey, green, pink, red, brown, purple, blue and black.
The most important ones grouped alphabetically by country are Brown Muscat, Frontignac(Australia); Tamyanka(Bulgaria); Muscat, Yellow Muscat, Grey Muscat, Red Muscat, Black Muscat, Incense Grape, White Muscat, Weirer(Germany, Austria); Muscat Frontignan (Chile); White Frontignan(England); Muscat d'Alsace, Muscat de Colmar, Muscat de Die, Muscat de Lunel, Muscat de Narbonne, Muscat Frontignan(France); Moschato, Moschato Aspro, Moschato Kerkyras, Moschato Lefko, Moschato Mazas, Moschato Samou, Moschato Spinas, Moschato Trani, Moschoudi, Moschoudi Proïmo, Muscat Sámos, Muskuti(Greece); Muscat Canelli(Israel); Generosa, Moscatella Generosa, Moscatello Bianco, Moscatello di Saracena, Moscatello di Taggia, Moscato Bianco, Moscato di Chambave, Moscato d'Asti, Moscato dei Colli Euganei, Moscato di Canelli, Moscato di Momiano, Moscato di Montalcino, Moscato di Noto, Moscato di Tempio, Moscato di Trani, Moscato Reale, Moscodellone(Italy); Istarski Muškat, Momjanski Muškat, Muškat Istarski, Muškat Momjanski (Croatia); Temjanika(Northern Macedonia); Moscatel Branco, Moscatel do Douro, Moscatel Galego Branco(Portugal); Tamâioasa Alba, Tamâioasa Romaneasca(Romania); Muscat Belii, Muscat Belyi, Tamyanka(Russia); Muscat du Valais(Switzerland); Tamjanika, Tamyanka(Serbia); Muškát Žltý(Slovakia); Rumeni Muscat(Slovenia); Moscatel Castellano, Moscatel Commun, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Moscatel de Grano Pequeno, Moscatel Encarnado, Moscatel Fino, Moscatel Morisco(Spain); Frontignac, Muscadel, Muscadel, Muscat Frontignan(South Africa); Muškát Žlutý(Czech Republic); Beyaz Misket, Bornova Misketi, Myskett(Turkey); Bela Dinka, Beli Muscat, Franczier Veros Muscatel, Piros Muskotály, Sárga Muskotály(Hungary); Muscat Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Frontignan(USA).
Despite morphological similarities or apparently suggestive synonyms, it must not be confused with the varieties Moscato Giallo, Muscadelle or Torrontés Riojano. The variety has often been a parent of natural crosses, which is why it is considered a leading variety, as well as a partner in new breedings:
It is possible that there are also genetic links with the three Greek varieties Malagousia, Moschomavro and Volitsa Mavri, which, by the way, have a muscatite. This is one of the reasons for the probability of Greek origin. Worldwide there are countless colour mutations in all imaginable berry colours from white to black with the name components Blanc, Gris, Rosa, Rouge, Roxo, Brown, Violet and Noir in many national languages.
The medium to late ripening vine is susceptible to powdery mildew, botrytis and mites. It also tends to trickle with a certain yield uncertainty. The variety has smaller berries than all other Muscatel varieties. It produces white wines with a pronounced muscatel tone and spicy aromas and is used for both dry and sweet aged wines and sparkling wines. Its sugar-rich berries make it particularly suitable for sweet wines, famous examples are Banyuls, Maury, Muscat de Frontignan, Rivesaltes (France); Constantia (South Africa); Malaga, Sherry (Spain); Samos (Greece) and Tokajer (Hungary).
The largest area under cultivation is in Italy with a total of 11,506 hectares. A large part of it is grown in the Asti/Moscatod'Asti areas in Piedmont, where the variety occupies around one-fifth of the vineyard area. In France, a total of 7,671 hectares have been designated, the largest quantities of which are in the double region of Languedoc-Roussillon with around 5,700 hectares. Here it is permitted in many sweet vin doux naturel either as the sole variety 100% in the four wines Muscat de Frontignan Muscat de Lunel, Muscat de Mireval and Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois (all Languedoc), or as an ingredient such as Muscat de Rivesaltes (Roussillon). In Alsace, under the name Muscat d'Alsace, it is one of the approved varieties for the 51 Alsace Grands Crus.
Other areas are in Armenia (526 ha), Bulgaria, Germany (192 ha), Greece (2.162 ha), Israel, Croatia (56 ha), Malta, Northern Macedonia, Moldova (172 ha), Austria (527 ha), Portugal (505 ha), Romania (840 ha), Russia (145 ha), Switzerland (49 ha), Serbia, Slovakia (48 ha), Slovenia (353 ha), Spain (1,291 ha), Turkey (114 ha), Ukraine (674 ha) and Hungary (709 ha). Overseas areas are cultivated in Argentina (94 ha), Australia (533 ha), Brazil (1,005 ha), Chile, Israel, Mexico (246 ha), Myanmar (7 ha), New Zealand (135 ha), Peru (361 ha), South Africa (689 ha), Thailand (3 ha) and Uruguay (10 ha), as well as in the US states of California (650 ha) and Washington (70 ha). In 2010, the variety occupied a total of 31,183 hectares of vineyards, with an upward trend (ten years earlier it was 28,401 hectares). The variety thus occupied 33rd place in the worldwide grape variety ranking.
Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)