For the 7th consecutive year The TOPS at SPAR Wine Show brings the best of South Africa’s wine producers to PE in August, showcasing hundreds of fine wines, vintages and varietals to wine lovers over three days at The Boardwalk. Among them is Orange River Cellars. Unlike the majority of local wine which is produced in the Western Cape, it’s located in the Northern Cape’s Upington. This unique geography – which attracts hundreds of wine enthusiasts from all over the world each year – produces the Muscat grape, a distinctively sweet varietal that is used to make its aromatic range of Cape Ruby, White Jerepigo, Red Jerepigo, Medium Cream, Old Brown, Full Cream, Hanepoot as well as White and Red Muscadels.
Here, cellar master Gert Visser, shares how a combination of clean air, soil, sun and a great river running through it, has put Orange River Cellars on the international map with its award-winning dessert wines.
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What is Muscadel and how is it produced? Muscadel, also known as Muscat, is a red and white grape variety and is most often consumed as a sweet dessert wine. To gain full sweetness, the grapes are harvested at the desired sugar levels while extracting flavour from the skins. Once the skin contact period is over the juice gets removed and fortified with alcohol. This gives it its signature sweetness.
What influence does the Orange River region’s hot climate have on your wine making? Many of the world’s great wines are made in regions crossed by the watery force of a famous river. So we’re fortunate to have one right on our doorstep! The great Orange River gives the soil a particular richness which contributes to a difference in wine flavour. While the river feeds the vines, the clean air and gentle sun create ideal conditions for making high quality wine. The intensity of the sun’s heat also enhances the fruitiness, and thus sweetness, of the wines.
How is Muscadel best enjoyed? Thanks to its sweetness and easy-drinking nature, both the red and white Muscadels work well on their own, make great aperitifs, or even cocktails. Though Muscadel has typically been more popular among an older market, we have definitely seen an increase in younger wine-lovers purchasing this type of wine. They drink it with crushed ice or follow cocktail trends. We’ve even created some interesting and fun cocktail combinations ourselves.
What’s your signature cocktail recipe? The White Muscadel “MintZing”. To make it you’ll need a bottle of white Muscadel, a few mint leaves, a thin slice of lemon, soda water and a tall cocktail glass filled to the brim with crushed ice. It’s a real thirst quencher and a great companion on a hot summer’s day. Or, if you’re looking for something funkier, we’ve created “The Witches Brew”. It combines our Red Muscadel with our Brut Sparkling Wine. Add a thinly sliced strawberry and ample crushed ice and enjoy this exotic pink combination.
What food dishes pair best with your Muscadels? The red complements cheeses and rich pasta dishes, while the white pairs well with fresh fruit, soup, mildly spiced dishes and sweet desserts.
Your Muscadel wines are award-winning. Could you tell us more? The White Muscadel won a gold medal at the 2013 Muscats du Monde in France and a silver medal in the 2014 event. The Red Muscadel has also received a silver medal at the 2015 Muscats du Monde. For one of our wines to be selected for this list is a real honour.
Do your sweet wines age well? Yes, dessert wines can age for a very long time after being bottled. If it is kept in the right circumstances, it will still be very good after 50 years. Because it is high in alcohol, it is preserved better.
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