In praise of muscat, the grape that tastes of grapes. Here are three bottles to get you started
Royal Tokaji Yellow Muscat, Tokaj, Hungary 2015 (£12.49, Laithwaite’s) Initiation into wine doesn’t have to come from a magical sip of a really special bottle. I credit the beginning of my own obsession to my first childhood encounter with a truly ripe bunch of muscat grapes, the pop of sweet perfumed juice opening my palate to the wonders of this fruit of the vine. Since the wines made from muscat grapes are unusual in tasting of the grapes themselves rather than alluding, as other varieties do, to other fruits, they always have an element of the Proustian madeleine for me. Such is the case with this dry Hungarian version, although its floral lilt and pear-and-citrus zip will appeal to anyone with a yen for a refreshingly aromatic, pretty summer white.
Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti Nivole 2016 (from £8.90, Wine Poole; Corking Wines; Wine and the Vine) Muscat’s floral charms have been appreciated for centuries and not just by humans: The Oxford Companion to Wine speculates that it was the grape that Pliny the Elder, Rome’s first wine critic, christened uva apiana, or ‘grape of the bees’, since its perfume proved so attractive to bees. The variety is still important in Italy today: on the island of Pantelleria, just off Sicily, where the muscat grape goes by the name of zibibbo, it makes the sticky, tangy, racy dessert wine Carlo Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria 2014 (£10.99, 37.5cl, Davis Bell McCraith). Further north in Piedmont it’s behind the exuberantly frothy white peach lightness of Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti.