Ask Wine Wizard

Making Dry Muscat

TroubleShooting

Cesare Lerullo — Thornhill, Ontario asks,
Q

I am going to be making wine using fresh Canelli Muscat grapes from California. I do not want a sweet wine. My question is which yeast would you recommend, and how long would you leave the skins in contact with the juice before pressing? I live in the Toronto area and have access to Lalvin yeasts.

A
Sounds tasty to me! I love a dry (or even off-dry, maybe with residual sugar of around 5 g/L), crisp Muscat wine. Historically, Muscats have been used in many wine types, from sweet and desserty to fortified to dry. I’ve made a few myself in my career, starting with the infamous “Vin de Glaciere” dessert wine and Moscato Frizzante at Bonny Doon Vineyard to a dry Muscat blending component I make for many of my dry white table wine blends today. Muscats (which also include variants like Orange Muscat and Muscat of Alexandria) are a special family of Vitis vinifera grapes in that they contain an aromatic class of compounds called terpenes that are largely responsible for their exotic aromas. Only “free” terpenes, that is, terpenes not bound to a sugar molecule in the form of a glycoside, are detectable in the aroma of a finished wine. During fermentation, most yeast cells produce an enzyme that will help cleave off the terpenes, essentially freeing them up to contribute chemically to the wine’s aroma. Some yeast strains do this better than
Response by Alison Crowe.