Part of my job in the retail wine industry is to translate what people say into what they actually mean. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes frustrating, but always entertaining.
Here’s an actual conversation I had on Christmas Eve:
Customer: Can you help me find some of that muskrat wine?
My inside voice: You want rodent wine?!?
Me: Do you mean Moscato wine?
Customer: I don’t know. It’s white and has a pretty bottle.
Me: Is it sweet and kinda fizzy?
Me: Moscato. Right this way.
Muskrat/Muscat. They’re basically the same thing. All the “Muskrat wines” can be confusing. There are several grapes and even a region that are only a couple of letters off from one another.
So let’s sort it out.
Muscat (aka Mother Muscat)
I had a WSET instructor who always called Muscat, “Mother Muscat”. Muscat is one of the oldest (possibly the oldest) family of grapes in the world. Some consider it to be the grape from which all other vinifera grapes derived (hence, Mother Muscat). It’s best known in its Italian form, as Moscato d’Asti. But it’s also called Moscatel in Spain and Portugal. There are literally hundreds of mutations and crossings of Muscat, the most famous and highly regarded is Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.
Muscat has a distinctive floral/grapey aroma, and can be made into a wide variety of wines — dry, medium, sweet, sparkling, or dessert wine. Muscat has low acidity, which makes it not especially suitable for aging (unless it’s fortified Muscat).
Muscadet is a region, not a grape. It’s the most well-known appellation of the Pay Nantis in Loire, France. The grape used in these wines is Melon de Bourgogne, which is totally unrelated to Muscat. The wines are dry, fairly neutral, laced with minerality and often a slight perception of salinity. Phenomenal with raw oysters.
One of the three grapes (along with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) permitted in White Bordeaux blends. Totally unrelated to Muscat, although it also has a marked grapey, floral characteristic. It would be rare to see Muscadelle produced as a single variety wine. It’s most famously used in the fortified wines of Rutherglen (Australia) as Topaque.
Not related to Muscat. Muscadine is a group of grape varieties native to Central and North America, concentrated mostly in the southeastern United States. Muscadine has thick skins and doesn’t usually get fully ripe, and usually requires chaptalization (adding sugar), which is why these wines are sweet. Very sweet. The vine is resistant to phylloxera, which may be its best quality. Very little wine is made from Muscadine, the most well known is probably Scuppernog, which is native to North Carolina. We sell a ton of this stuff.
Not related to Muscat. A super obscure grape variety from the southern Rhone, and one of the 14 approved grape varieties for Chateauneuf-du-Pape. No one ever asks for this. If they do, they mean Muscadine.
Cheers to the Muskrat wines!