ADVERTISEMENT

Moscato Giallo

The challenges and opportunities of 
Moscato Giallo

By Kathleen Quealy, Quealy Winemakers, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Moscato Giallo is a variety that suits the more sensitive, new wave of lo-fi winemakers because of its contrasting attributes to more mainstream varietals, writes Kathleen Quealy, whose first experience with the variety began in the mid 2000s.

Mornington Peninsula is a cool, maritime climate with cold winds dropping spring temperatures, causing poor flowering and poor yields. We noticed our Riesling was a consistent setter in the cold spring and thus planted more late-ripening, aromatic varieties in the expectation their late flowering and ripening would complement the risks and the winery load of our key varieties Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
We grow Moscato Giallo on our own property and purchase Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains from 100 Hunts Vineyard at Merricks North for our Secco Splendido. I mention this because they are pertinent varieties to compare and contrast. We also grow the aromatic varieties Riesling, Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla.

We first grafted Moscato Giallo onto old Cabernet vines in 2004 or 2005. These vines were very low yielding due to the vine age, zero irrigation and variable success with the grafts.
The grapes were generally picked at 9-10 Baumé in mid-April. They were soaked on skins overnight and then gently pressed with riper varieties into our ‘field blend’ called Pobblebonk. This small Giallo vineyard was pulled out after the 2018 vintage. There is no Moscato Giallo in our 2020 vintage Pobblebonk, however we will make a return to the blend as the new plantings mature. The tonnages from the old vines ranged from 0.3-1 tonne in total, so hardly enough to claim any expertise. However, there is still some experience we can share.

Moscato Giallo vines in the Quealy vineyard in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

 

In 2017 we purchased 1500 tube stock of Moscato Giallo VCR72 on 3309C rootstock from Chalmers.

The vines are vertically trained, with rows 2.4 metres apart and vines 1.2 metres apart. The soil is heavy with a pH of 6.5; it has excellent organic matter and is low in micronutrients.
In 2019 we picked on 5 April with the vines yielding one tonne of fruit. Please note this was the first crop and the yield was restricted at pruning.

This year, 2020, we picked on 9 April for a yield of 0.652 tonnes. Once again, the yield was restricted at pruning due to the young age of the vines, however fruit set was dismal. The majority of flowers shattered with the cold weather. The shattering was so widespread it was difficult to estimate a flowering date. All we can confirm is although the flowering date was 14-20 days later than Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, the entire vineyard suffered poor fruit set in 2020.

The Moscato Giallo vines are now trained to two-arched canes of 10 buds each plus one or two spurs. They are in excellent health this year, with two large inflorescence per shoot.
We will apply foliar fertiliser to the vines before flowering. We expect a good crop this year of 3-5 tonnes per acre.

Moscato Giallo, in our experience, is less floral than Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. The bunches are smaller, looser and each berry more golden and harder. The vines do not ripen much beyond 10 Baumé, maybe 11Be. The last two years have resulted in a finished wine of pH3.5 after a winemaking process of six months fermentation on skins. Skin contact negates protein instability and prior experiences suggest there is a lot of protein in Moscato Giallo.

Moscato Giallo is a peculiar variety, as is most of the muscat family in my limited experience. The vines tend to look poorly and beset with various leaf conditions. The vines require a lot of targeted nutrition in the soil and applied as a foliar fertiliser.

The Giallo juice is perfumed however balanced with a more adult spice and animal musk, in contrast to Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains which has a totally heady floral perfume.
Upon fermentation the aroma can be overcome with serious sulfide, which we suspect is attached to the poor nutrition of the grape. The low sugar, tendency to sulfide, distinctly chalky palate and moderate acidity requires a strategy.

Moscato Giallo is an excellent co-fermenter as its low sugar can balance richer fruit. When blended with other juices, the sulfides do not commonly arise. The distinct palate can add complexity to a blended palate.
In our last two vintages, Moscato Giallo has been destemmed and fermented (without sulfur) in amphora with Friulano, Riesling and Malvasia. The wine is left on skins for six months and then racked into barrels for a further 12 months. The wine is marketed as Quealy Lina Lool. The name is a play on the terpene that defines aromatic white wine, and perhaps inspired by Lululemon, cool active wear I would like to wear.
I have an interest in aromatic varieties as delicate field blends, more robust skin contact wine, sparkling wine and late harvest styles. Clearly, they all share the terpene linalool.
I would describe Moscato Giallo as a more dramatic aromatic than Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. It’s a more robust, earthy wine than the delicate Riesling or even Traminer.
Consumers do like to drink aromatic white wine, and now that the industry has been thoroughly disrupted, there is an appreciation of new styles, ways and varieties.
Very little is known about the viticulture or making of Moscato Giallo wine in Australia. I suspect that the variety rather than the terroir will dominate the finished wine. I think the winemaking will need to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of this variety.

However, Moscato Giallo is a variety that will suit the more sensitive, new wave of lo-fi winemakers because of its contrasting attributes to more mainstream varietals. It certainly is a success as a skin contact variety for us. I can envisage a complex, edgey sparkling wine in the right hands.
I look forward to improved performance in the vineyard and winery with our increasing knowledge and improvements in meeting its nutritional requirements.

I would recommend planting Moscato Giallo as a small portion of a vineyard and enjoying the challenges and opportunities.

 

 

Moscato Giallo

By Peter Dry, Emeritus Fellow, 
The Australian Wine Research Institute

Background
Moscato Giallo (moss-KAH-toh gee-AHL-oh) is an old variety, mainly grown in Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli for varietal wines in their DOCs. According to folklore it was thought to have originated in the Middle East or in Greece; however, recent DNA analysis suggests a southern Italian origin. It has a parent-offspring relationship with Moscato Bianco. Principal synonyms are Fior d’Arancio (Padova), Golden (Gelber) Muskateller (Bolzano), Moscato dalla Siria, Muscat du Pays and Muscat Vert (Switzerland) and Muscatedda (Sicily). Moscato Giallo is used for sparkling and sweet wines in Veneto (Colli Euganei DOC and Corti Benedettine del Padova DOC) and Friuli (Isonzo DOC). In Switzerland, Muscat du Pays vineyards in Valais have been shown to be a mixture of Moscato Giallo and Moscato Bianco. Global area in 2010 was 1470ha, mainly in Italy. There are at least nine wine producers in Australia, mainly in Victoria with fewer in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

Viticulture
Budburst is mid-season and maturity is early to mid-season. Vigour is high with an erect growth habit. Bunches are medium to large and loose to well-filled with medium tough-skinned yellow berries with muscat flavour. Yield is good. Both long and short pruning are used in Italy. It is moderately tolerant of oidium, downy mildew, bunch rot and wind damage. There is clonal variation in Italy with respect to aromatic intensity.

Wine
Moscato Giallo wines have an attractive yellow colour and are intensely aromatic with a fruity flavour similar to Moscato Bianco. Descriptors include muscat, floral and sherbet. In Australia, it is used for refreshing, light and fruity wines, slightly sweet and either sparkling or just spritzy. It may also be used for dessert wines.