Muscat California United States

Known as Moscato in Italy, and Moscatel in Portugal and Spain, Muscat is one of the oldest continually cultivated grape varietals in the world. It originally came out of the Middle East, and was picked up by the ancient Greeks, who brought it to Italy and elsewhere in their empire. Because of its astounding age and continuous use, it has long since been mutated and crossbred to produce dozens of subspecies, and it is known by lots of synonyms and regional names. Because of this, it is fair to say that there is no ‘true’ Muscat grape. The most popular - and oldest - varietal within this group, however, is Muscat Blanc au Petit Grains, which is grown with great results most notably in France and South Africa.

Known for its light and fruity character, Muscat of Alexandria is the second oldest of the Muscat grapes, and is found in several countries around the Mediterranean. The grape is prized for its versatility - indeed, almost every imaginable type of wine style, from dry to medium to sweet and sparkling, can be made from this varietal. Generally speaking, though, Muscat grapes have a relatively low acidity which make them unsuitable for ageing, meaning the vast majority of Muscat wines are drank very young, wherein they can express their best features.

California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.

Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.