Muscadelle is a white wine grape variety of moderate vigour and inherently low yields, that buds late. It is susceptible to grey rot, powdery mildew and spoilage from insects given its weak skins and the loose-knit, truncated form of its bunches. Muscadelle is desirable for its highly aromatic qualities that are akin to Muscat and yet, more savoury and subtle.
Muscadelle serves as a blending agent in many dry white Bordeaux, sweeter Sauternes and Barsac, and other regional wines driven by Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, throughout western France. These include Bergerac and the multitude of regions that produce sweeter expressions of the variety, such as Ciron, Cérons, Cadillac, Loupiac, Ste-Croix-du-Mont and Monbazillac. Indeed, Muscadelle's role becomes more prominent in these satellite regions, rather than in and around Bordeaux, be it for dry or sweet styles. Château d'Yquem, for example, uses no Muscadelle.
Muscadelle is also grown in California and South Africa, as well as throughout eastern Europe.
In Australia, Muscadelle was once mistakenly identified as the indigenous Hungarian grape variety, Hàrselevelü. Thus, until recently when the term was claimed exclusively by the European Union, the compelling fortified expressions from the Victorian towns of Rutherglen and Glenrowan were known as Tokay. They have now been given the tone of the marketeer, branded as 'Topaque'. Despite this odd moniker, Muscadelle is responsible for straight varietal wines that are among Australia's greatest gifts to the wine world.
These unique Australian styles from the likes of Chambers and Campbells, are muted very early in the fermentation process, or prior to it even starting, leaving extremely high levels of residual sugar. The wines are aged across large, neutral oak formats, without temperature control. Complexity is gained through the oxidative environment and the time the wines spend in wood. In some cases, further detail is attained through fractional blending across well stocked solera systems. Aromas run the gamut of marmalade, honey, molasses and roasted nuts.