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
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.
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.
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.