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Orange Muscat

by David on July 6, 2009

Common Synonyms: La Fleur d’Orange, Muscat Fleur d’Oranger, Moscato Fior d’Arancio and Orange Flora.

With the sweet, heady perfume of orange blossom and stone fruit, it’s hard to understand why this is such an obscure variety. There are less than 200 acres of Orange Muscat throughout California. The French call it La Fleur d’Orange – the orange blossom – it’s also grown in Italy and Australia and for obvious reasons – who can resist such a gorgeous fragrance and soft, fruity flavors?

Here in California we can thank Andrew Quady for bringing this aromatic variety to our attention by making a delicious fortified wine, called Essencia, in 1980.

Very little is known about Orange Muscat. Apparently, it’s not a member of the Muscat family of grapes, however similar it may be in aroma and flavor. The Muscat family is distinguished as being one of the very few wine varieties that is also used as a table grape. In most cases wine grapes taste good, but they’re more trouble than they’re worth, as table grapes, because they’re so small and the seeds get in the way. Muscats are worth the trouble for the same reasons that the Orange Muscat is. In fact, there are some who believe the name came from the Latin, Musca – the word for flies – because its tremendous scent is attractive to bees, flies or anything else that loves flowers. In any case, the Orange Muscat was probably misidentified long ago by someone who made an assumption based upon aroma and flavor. Whenever you hear the name Muscat, Moscato or Moscatel, you know your nose is in for a treat. The Malvasia of Italy, Spain and Portugal is another variety, like the Orange Muscat, that’s often confused with Muscat, because of the beautiful aromatics.

Orange Muscat is versatile and it’s made in styles ranging from extremely light in color and body, to sparkling wine in the style of Asti Spumanti to heavier, amber-colored fortified wines like the Essencia.

You can usually expect some sweetness and the residual sugar serves to accentuate the intense, fruity flavors. Barrel aging can be part of the picture for the fortified examples but, otherwise, most winemakers don’t choose to put anything in the way of the fruit. The State Lane Orange Muscat falls into the first category – a wine of tremendous perfume and vivacious flavors, but so light that it nearly floats across the palate.

This is an early-ripening variety and a generous producer. It’s most likely to show off the floral, stone fruit, citrus, tropical, and somewhat spicy nature when it’s allowed to ripen slowly, so it does well in cool climates, which also help keep the grape acid high to balance the residual sugars.

Any Orange Muscat makes a wonderful dessert in and of itself. But, when it comes to food, think fruit! The lighter Orange Muscats make a delicious, simple dessert when served with almost any kind of fresh fruit. For those more ambitious, an apricot cheesecake, apple tart or raspberry mousse will make a special treat with a glass of the Orange Muscat. The wine will be very easy to pair with almost any kind of cheese and the sharpness of blue cheese makes a wonderful, salty contrast to the soft sweetness of the wine. For the fortified versions, crème brûlée is a good choice and chocolate and nuts become an enticing part of the picture. You could also serve this more substantial wine, like you might a Vin Santo, with biscotti for dipping! Check out Colleen’s Kitchen for delicious recipes to pair with the Orange Muscat and our other wines.

Flavor profile: orange blossom, peach, apricot

Weight: Light (except fortified)

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