Muscat

In the dead of winter, White Wine 201 recommends Muscat – a versatile grape reminiscent of summer. In both dry and sweet styles, this variety, believed to be the world’s oldest, is magnificently fragrant, floral and grapey. Unusually for wine grapes, Muscat grapes are also tasty for eating – and are often used to make raisins.

Though most novice drinkers will prefer Muscat’s sweetest offerings, some of the wines suggested below are off-dry and medium-sweet – slightly more challenging, but also more sophisticated. And they’re still relatively easy drinking, so unlike the tannic monsters you may have served in the past, your guests won’t have to pretend to enjoy these. Most still have the enough sweetness to stand up to spicy food, and they will match with many fruit-based desserts.

Family-owned Ironstone Vineyards tends to make good value wines, and their off-dry Obsession Symphony California 2007 ($14.95) is vinified from a man-made cross between Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria. It’s floral with honeydew melon notes, and a slightly silky texture.

Muscat Ottonel is a slightly less floral varietal, but delicious nonetheless. The dry version from Hungary, Dunavar Connoisseur Collection Muscat Ottonel 2007 ($7.95), is a spectacular recession-buster. With a lean lime and orange flower nose, this delightful white has more heft than many an inexpensive white wine.

Finally, Olsen Wines of Australia’s Victoria wine region makes a Muscat Blanc Autumn Harvest 2006, ($18.95) that’s medium-sweet, with banana and peach notes, and a nice thickness of texture.

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