When ordering a mixed assortment of cheeses, or putting a cheese platter together at home, the question turns to what wine to pair with all of the different types. While certain wines marry beautifully with particular cheeses, it is often difficult to find a single varietal wine that finds synergy with creamy, salty and pungent; hard, washed and soft; all at once. Rutherglen Muscat is the answer!
Rutherglen is an historic wine growing region in the north-east of Victoria. Hot and dry, the region provides the perfect material in ripe Muscat grapes on the cusp of golden raisins. These are the platform to craft sweet, fortified wines that intoxicate with floral and exotic aromas of honeysuckle, ginger and spice. Jancis Robinson MW, the wine scribe for the Financial Times, calls Rutherglen Muscat one of "Australia's great gifts to the wine world."
As the name suggests, Muscat's origins lie in the Middle East and the deep Mediterranean, where the grape variety arrived via ancient trading routes and to Australia, via the early colony's penchant for fortified wine styles. While a number of strains exist, among the superior clones is that known as Muscat à Petit Grain Rouge, or Rutherglen Brown Muscat.
Rutherglen Muscat is produced by blocking yeast activity at the very early stage of fermentation, or before the fermentation even begins. This is achieved with the addition of a high octane spirit that kills the yeasts, ensuring high levels of sweetness while fortifying the wine against the whims of temperature and other potential causes of instability. The wines are then aged for varying periods in large barrels. These are kept in cellars that often resemble tin sheds, with little in the way of temperature control. Only in Australia!
The styles are then classified in ascending order of age as Rutherglen, Classic, Grand and Rare Rutherglen Muscats.
Rutherglen Muscat's sweetness parries effortlessly with salty blue cheeses, while its sheer richness and tenacity of flavour stands up to the most pungent, creamy and washed rinds. It is the go-to cheese wine!
Guest post by Ned Goodwin MW. Ned is a Sydney based sommelier, educator, show judge, consultant, TV wine show host and wine writer.