Here's a wine to drink if you want to stand out in a crowd. Like, really stand out. But if you want to be ahead of the masses, get on the Muscadine bandwagon early. Typically made in a sweet style, this is a wine unlike any other. It's not for the faint of heart either. Muscadine gives off the aroma of ripe bananas with hints of lime, honeydew melon or cranberry along with an intense taste of banana.
If you ask friends to guess where Muscadine wines are produced, you might be in for a long night. The wine is almost exclusively made in the southern United States, including Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi. The future of Muscadine wine is wide open. Many wineries are just beginning to experiment with the variety, so there's no telling how this wine will progress in the coming years.
The Origins of Muscadine:
Muscadines have been used to make artisanal wines and port wines since the 16th century when they were first produced around St. Augustine, Florida. They are a native species of the Southeast, but they grow as far as west Texas and Oklahoma on up to Delaware. The grapes thrive on humidity and summer heat, so they are well adapted to the South, which is where you'll find the majority of Muscadine wineries.
Unlike most grapes, Muscadine berries have thick skins that make them difficult to eat raw. They range in color from bronze to black or dark purple, although some varieties remain green through maturity. There are, in fact, more than 300 varieties of Muscadine grown in the South. In addition to wine, Muscadine is great for making jellies, jams and juices. As such, they've been extensively cultivated since the 16th century.
One of the oldest grape vines in the world is a Scuppernong, which might sound like a funny name, but it's actually a variety of Muscadine that was planted around 1584, in Manteo, North Carolina. In fact, Scuppernong wine is the oldest type of wine made in America, and no southern dinner is complete without a glass.
Muscadine Wine Characteristics:
Muscadine wine is an acquired taste that ranges from sweet to dry styles. It's quite unlike any other wine you have ever tried, and sensitive tasters might be overwhelmed by the wine's aromatics. The primary flavors encountered include bruised apple, lime peel, ripe banana, cranberry and even rubber cement.
The color ranges from medium amber to a pale red with a taste profile dominated by fruit and acidity. You might also taste notes of rose hip, peony, peaches, brine and chocolate cake, depending on the variety.
How to Drink It:
Muscadine wine is best served chilled. Since it oxidizes easily, drink it while it's young, and you won't want to keep a leftover bottle in the fridge for too long. Pour it in a traditional wine glass and drink it as is, or mix it with sparkling wine and peach liqueur and serve it in mason jars. Just be sure to garnish with some fruit slices.