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Muscat Ottonel is a member of the legendary Muscat family of grapes. The origin of this white grape variety in Alsace, where French growers first started experimenting with the grape in the 1850s. Other notable regions for Muscat Ottonel production now include Austria, Romania, Hungary, Switzerland, Croatia and Serbia. Currently, Austria accounts for more than half (55.72%) of all Muscat Ottonel produced globally.
The Muscat Ottonel grape is a hybrid cross of Chasselas and Muscat de Saumur. This grape is capable of producing a wide range of wines, from light, dry table wines to richer, sweeter dessert wines. Muscat Ottonel is known for being the palest of all the Muscat grapes, both in terms of colour and flavour intensity.
While wines made with Muscat Ottonel can be aromatic, they are generally low in acidity. Thus, for wine growers, the preference is to pick these grapes when they are still under-ripe – what they might sacrifice in aromatic complexity, they more than make up for with balance and acidity.
In general, Muscat Ottonel can thrive far better in colder climates than other Muscat grapes, which are generally found in warmer, Mediterranean-style climates. For example, winemakers in Canada have experimented with Muscat Ottonel to make both dry and sweet wines.
In Central and Eastern Europe (and especially in Austria and Romania), Muscat Ottonel is primarily used to make sweeter dessert wines. However, in its native Alsace, it is used to make dry white wines under the appellation “Muscat d’Alsace.”
In terms of food pairings, classic matches for Muscat Ottonel include steamed scallops (for dry white wines) and crepes with caramel cream (for sweet dessert wines).