Guess what, it’s Australian. They call it liqueured Muscat. Pecan pie written all over it!
Australians don’t know squat about pecans. And Americans have never tasted liqueured Muscat. But that wine and pecan pie are a sensational match. This Fall you can be one of only a handful of people on earth who have tried this magnificent combination.
Ligueur Muscat from Rutherglen, at the northern edge of Victoria, up against the Murray River, in Australia. Brands like Buller’s, Yalumba, and Chambers are sold several places in the U.S. Morris would be a very prominent brand in Australia not easily found in America. Cost is around US$15 for a half (375 ml) bottle on a standard, 5- to 8-year-old bottling.
Every gracious host in Australia has a little trundle-cart that comes out at the end of a nice meal. On it will be bottles of sweet Oloroso Sherry, Ports, and a selection of the great ‘liqueured’ wines from Rutherglen: Muscat and Tokay. Very few other places in the world make a wine similar to liqueured Muscat. Perhaps Setubal on the Portugese coast north of Lisbon, but a tradition waning in Portugal is thriving in Australia.
Rutherglen is a hot, irrigated riverland district of Australia’s interior. The Brown Muscat (Muscat d’Frontignan) gets very ripe quite easily there. It is extremely fragrant. The wine is naturally sweet following fermentation, but its characteristic caramel scent and thick mouth-feel develop during aging in a barrel. The hot climate evaporates water out of the wine over a period of years, concentrating flavor and sugar. The wine becomes thicker as well. Very old (50- or 60-year) examples are so viscous and densely scented that I find they’ve bypassed my zone for maximum pleasure. Nevertheless a little bit of very old wine will flavor a large amount of young wine. That’s why liqueured wines are never vintage-dated. Most producers have a modestly priced item on offer, plus a 20- to 25-year-old specialty item at three times more money. Australians will occasionally purchase a bottle of very old liqueured wine direct from the winery for a birthday or anniversary, but those single bottles are prepared and priced individually. They can cost four figures.
Australian wine judges assay the average age of a liqueured wine by looking at the meniscus (edge of the wine where liquid meets glass as the stemware is tilted away from the observer). Over time this halo area takes on an olive drab or khaki color of increasing intensity. There is also a smell nuance that creeps in, something akin to dusty old books in the attic, that Australians call ‘rancio.’ Perhaps the connotation explains why young and middle-aged examples appeal to me more than really old and expensive ones.
Liqueured Muscat keeps well for months in a bottle with an air space, so having an ounce or two at a time works just fine. Most Australians would have the wine by itself, rather than with dessert. It really is wonderful to just smell out of a big glass or snifter over a half hour sitting around telling tall tales with your friends. But my recommendation for Americans is to pair the wine with pecan pie. The lifted perfuminess of the Muscat, and the toffee-like complexity of the flavor just scream nut-tart. It is too dominate for crème brulee, and not berry-like enough for chocolate. Pecan pie, an American holiday tradition, is precisely the right answer. If calories are a concern, hold the vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t contributing to the taste combination anyway.
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I hope you appreciate the irony of your very first comment coming from a guy who hasn't had a drink in 26 years. Anyway, very erudite, although as a huge fan of vanilla ice cream and not so much of pecan pie I'll simply take you at your word on the liqueured muscat/pecan pie combination. If memory serves, it certainly makes sense.
Posted by Mr. Robert Lee Short on Oct 29, 2009 9:13 AM
Bruce, I loved your first blog item. I can't thank you enough for doing this. I've often wished I could pick your brain for wine tips without being a nuisance. Now you've made it possible. Great idea!
Posted by Mrs. Linda C. Renna on Oct 29, 2009 10:38 AM