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There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.
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.