The dar­ling of a new gen­er­a­tion

No longer hid­ing its light un­der the bushel, mus­cadel from the Klein Ka­roo emerges as this sum­mer’s hip new drink. Michelle Swart finds out more

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IT IS not only lo­cal palates wak­en­ing to the charm of mus­cadel. As far as the US and Canada, mus­cadel — or moscato as it is known there — is fast be­com­ing the dar­ling of a new gen­er­a­tion, even pop­ping up in rap mu­sic. In Do It Now, rap­per Drake sings: “Lob­ster and shrimp/and a glass of moscato/ for the girl whose a stu­dent/and her friend whose a model.”

This iconic sweet wine was at the core of a spring lunch hosted by the mus­cadel pro­duc­ers of the Klein Ka­roo wine route. Held in a cen­turies old mus­cadel cel­lar at Cabri­erés just out­side Mon­tagu, the spot­light was on the out­stand­ing qual­ity and ver­sa­til­ity of the re­gion’s mus­cadel prod­ucts.

Their fresh ap­proach to mus­cadel bodes well for this wine. “We are pas­sion­ate about this style of wine and want the pub­lic to be just as ex­cited about the fan­tas­tic mus­cadels from the Klein Ka­roo,” says Boets Nel, cham­pion mus­cadel pro­ducer of De Krans, Cal­itz­dorp.

Mus­cadel is such a stal­wart that per­haps it has been taken for granted. For­tu­nately, modern trends are likely to pique the in­ter­est of a new gen­er­a­tion, while fans will look anew at its di­ver­sity.

Trends point­ing to nos­tal­gia, au­then­tic­ity, time-hon­oured crafts­man­ship and the fast-grow­ing lo­ca­vore move­ment in­flu­enc­ing the al­lure of lo­cally made prod­ucts are likely to stim­u­late the pop­u­lar­ity of mus­cadel fur­ther.

“Mus­cadel has some­thing for ev­ery palate, rang­ing from sweet, semisweet to dry,” says Nel. “The drier mus­cadels in par­tic­u­lar are ex­pected to be the taste of the fu­ture. Trends from over­seas also point to­wards wines with lower su­gar and al­co­hol lev­els.”

The “mus­cadel-manne” of the Klein Ka­roo are al­ready ex­per­i­ment­ing with the drier styles. De Krans Wines pro­duce a dry white Mus­cadel that is highly sought af­ter in the Ger­man mar­ket. Karusa Vine­yards gar­nered gold at the South­ern Cape Young Wine Show with their Mus­cat blanc 2011. Var­i­ous cel­lars in the Klein Ka­roo also use mus­cadel, white or red, in their pop­u­lar sparkling wines.

The ver­sa­til­ity, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and panache of the Klein Ka­roo’s mus­cadel was fur­ther il­lus­trated at the event with an in­ven­tive food and mus­cadel-in­spired menu, cap­tur­ing the ter­roir of the re­gion and its food cul­ture.

Culi­nary con­sul­tant Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche, guest chef for the oc­ca­sion, de­scribes her jour­ney through mus­cadel as a gas­tro­nomic rev­e­la­tion. “I am pleas­antly sur­prised by mus­cadel, find­ing it the eas­i­est and most ver­sa­tile wine to ex­plore with food and cook­ing.”

She says mus­cadel is both earthly and el­e­gant. “The prom­i­nent flavours can stand their ground, which gives one the free­dom to play with com­bi­na­tions — from the del­i­cate to the more ro­bust. Not lim­ited to win­ter dishes and spicy cur­ries, it hap­pily smooches up to Ka­roo lamb, a spring salad or a sum­mer berry tart. It is just as com­fort­able as a tra­di­tional ‘soet sopie’ or a mus­ca­tini cock­tail as it is in gran­i­tas and other con­tem­po­rary sum­mer drinks.”

Chef Van Deventer-Terblanche cre­ated match­ing morsels for a pre­lunch tast­ing ses­sion: Klein Ka­roo foie gras made with os­trich liver (served quirk­ily in chicken eggshells) mar­ried De Krans Re­serve Mus­cat 2010, while ‘Ka­roo­bossie’ smoked pork roulade with cran­berry fill­ing was match with the wooded Grund­heim Red Mus­cadel N/V.

“Ka­roo pens-en-pootjies”, a play­ful look at the hip re­vival of nose-to-tail eat­ing, matched per­fectly with His Mas­ter’s Choice Red Mus­cadel 2010 from Vlak­teplaas. The Klein-Ka­roo showed its Mediter­ranean side with a roasted sweet pep­per and pecorino salad en­joyed with Karusa Mus­cat blanc 2011. Minia­ture mus­cadel and ber­rie jel­lies part­ner­ing Mon­tagu Wine & Spir­its Com­pany’s White Mus­cadel 2011 rounded off the canapé se­lec­tion.

The starter echoed the lo­ca­vo­rian trend with a Klein Ka­roo salad, stud­ded with dried apri­cots, al­monds and sum­mer berry — all lo­cally grown. An in­no­va­tive rosé granita made with Oudt­shoorn Cel­lar Baroness sparkling wine made a star ap­pear­ance on the plate. The iconic Bo­plaas Mus­cadel Re­serve 2009 was a wor­thy part­ner for this light-footed dish.

An­other South African icon, Ka­roo lamb, made its ap­pear­ance with a plum and choco­late sauce. “The creami­ness of the Cal­itz­dorp Cel­lar White Mus­cadel 2010 is the most nat­u­ral com­pan­ion for the in­dul­gent main course. Clearly there’s noth­ing shy or modest about this wine,” en­thused the chef.

In step with the Klein Ka­roo re­gion’s rep­u­ta­tion as a fruit mecca, a rose­wa­ter and sum­mer fruit tart was served with Mon­tagu Wine Cel­lar Red Mus­cadel 2010, while Karusa Mus­cat Rosé 2011 formed the base of a re­fresh­ing san­gria.

The meal con­firmed that qual­ity mus­cadel and the Klein Ka­roo are in­sep­a­ra­ble, with the re­gion’s ter­roir per­fectly suited to the grape va­ri­ety.

“This is a cham­pion-pro­duc­ing re­gion — from Mon­tagu to Dor­ingkraal in De Rust,” says Nel. “Mus­cadel in­sists on leaner soil con­di­tions with just the right amount of mois­ture. Be­ing a warmer area, the flavours are in­tense.”

With mus­cadel mak­ing its modern de­but at laid-back sum­mer lunches and cock­tail par­ties, the chances are that rock stars will also fall in love with it.

Pic­ture: SA­MARIE SMITH Pic­ture: ROX­ANE LAKER

A wel­come drink with a dif­fer­ence, mini mus­cadel and ber­rie jel­lies paired with Mon­tagu Wine & Spir­its Com­pany’s White Mus­cadel 2011, left. Mus­cadel shows its ver­sa­til­ity in this Klein Ka­roo take on san­gria. Sim­ply add to­gether Karusa Mus­cat Rosé, lemon­ade, soda water, orange and le­mon slices. Serve ice cold, right.

Pic­ture: ROX­ANE LAKER

Klein Ka­roo mus­cadel and Ka­roo lamb. The creami­ness of Cal­itz­dorp Cel­lar White Mus­cadel 2010 makes it a nat­u­ral com­pan­ion for the rich lamb with plum and choco­late sauce.

‘Ka­roo pens-en-pootjies’ canapés, matched with red mus­cadel, take a play­ful look at the re­vival of nose-to-tail eat­ing.

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