Muscat of Alexandria is an off-white grape from Greece, used mainly for sweet wine production.

Characteristics
This is a variety that thrives in warm climates, and has the capacity of delivering high sugar levels, thus making it a perfect choice for producing very sweet wines.

Flavours tend to go in the di­­rec­­tion of sweet cit­­rus such as tan­­ger­­ines and or­anges as well as or­ange flow­­ers.

Wines
Muscat of Alexandria is used both as a table grape and for wine production. In Spain, it is used to make sweet Moscatel wine, out of which most of the production is for inexpensive wind of simpler kind. On the island of Malaga, and under the synonym Moscatel de Malaga it is blended with Pedro Ximenez to make the more famous Malaga wines.

In Italy, it is the grape of Pantelleria, a small island south-east of Sicily, where it has been established as a DOC (Moscato di Pantelleria DOC). The grape is here known as Zihibbo or Zihibbo di Pantellaria.

In Portugal, it is used to make Moscatel de Setubal, considered to be one of the best Muscat wines in Portugal. Here the grape is called Moscatel de Setubal or Moscatel Romano.

In the south of France, it is commonly used to produce Muscat de Rivesaltes, however this fortified wine can be made from either Muscat of Alexandria or Muscat à Petits Grains Blanc or a blend of the two varieties.

In South Africa, Muscat of Alexandria is konwn as Hanepoot and is used to produce a special kind of fortified wine. The Jerepigo style means that alcohol is added before fermentation to very ripe grape juice, resulting in a very sweet wine. It is actually sometimes described as fortified grape juice, and is often used as a communion wine.

Food pairing
If you don’t prefer to enjoy a sweet wine like this on its own in a glass, it can be paired with many types of desserts, for example with fresh or dried fruits.

The contrasting flavours of Muscat and Liquorice ice cream will be a wonderful way of ending your dinner. The wine is best served at 10-12°C/50-54°F

Where is it grown?
In spite of having increased both in Spain (thirty-four percent) and Italy (thirty-one percent), Muscat of Alexandria has decreased world-wide by ten percent between 2000 and 2010. It is now approximately 5.500 ha/13,591 ac smaller in reported plantings than its parent Muscat à Petits Grains Blanc.

In total, there are plantings of 26.515 ha/65,521 ac reported from thirteen countries, placing it as the thirty-fifth most planted variety in the world.

  • Spain 8.237 ha/20,354 ac, MPG rank 18, PTPA 1%
  • Morocco 3.669 ha/9,066 ac, MPG rank 4, PTPA 7%
  • Argentina 2.939 ha/7,263 ac, MPG rank 14, PTPA 1%
  • France 2.588 ha/6,394 ac, MPG rank 34, PTPA 0,3%
  • South Africa 2.167 ha/5,356 ac, MPG rank 10, PTPA 2%
  • Australia 2.043 ha/5,049 ac, MPG rank 11, PTPA 1%
  • Italy 1.521 ha/3,758 ac, MPG rank 57, PTPA 0,2%
  • USA 1.285 ha/3,175 ac, MPG rank 24, PTPA 0,6%
  • Chile 1.090 ha/2,694 ac, MPG rank 12, PTPA 1%
  • Portugal 647 ha/1.599 ac, MPG rank 44, PTPA 0,40%

Smaller plantings are also reported from Israel, Cyprus, and Brazil.

History
With more than two-hundred and ten synonyms, it is clear that Muscat of Alexandria is an old variety. The question is how old. Most likely Muscat of Alexandria is of Greek origin, with Muscat à Petits Grains Blanc (under the name Moschato Samou), and the Greek variety Axinas de Tres Bias, as its parents. But the history does not have to end here. There are several other, or additional, hypotheses around.

The variety has been referred to as having been around already during the Roman empire, but this hypothesis lacks solid proof.

Another hypothesis is that its Sicilian name, Zibbibo can be linked to an Arabic origin, dating it even earlier, e.g. that it existed already several centuries before Christ. Neither this hypothesis is however backed by any evidence.

A third option is that it, looking at its name, originates from – or at least has travelled through – the area around Alexandria in Egypt. However, as this city got its name from the Greek king Alexander, the name could just as well point to any origin somewhere in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, e.g. in the vast land area conquered by Alexander.