Christmas 2013: top picks for muscat

Drinks at Christmas are a personal choice. Some start with a little glass of low-alcohol moscato, some French or local bubbles and others a J.D. and Coke. While sparkling shiraz is a favoured drink with the ham and turkey, a large number of Australians reach for a bottle of fortified wine towards the end of the meal, and one of the favourites is muscat.

Australia produces some of the best muscat in the world. Muscat grapes are picked when quite sweet and fermented. Alcohol is added, stopping the ferment and leaving residual sugar. The wine is aged in oak barrels and when bottled some older wine is added to younger wine. It is a delicious drink to enjoy with Christmas pudding.

The panelists were looking for a sweet but not cloying drink with lovely dried fruit aromas and a balanced finish. The first four muscats were all recommend by the panelists, with only a few points between them.


First: Morris Classic Liqueur Muscat
500ml $20 ($40 per litre),

With its rich fruit cake aromas and clean crisp finish, the panelists all approved of this lovely ruby-coloured muscat from Rutherglen in north-east Victoria.

Second: Pennyweight Muscat
$38 for 750ml ($50 per litre),

A lighter and less sweet muscat from Beechworth, this is made from fruit from biodynamic vineyards in nearby Rutherglen. Although the panelists felt the "Christmas cake aromas" were less pronounced than in some of the other muscats, they found it to be "very accessible" and "dangerously quaffable".

Third: Scion
500ml $75 ($150 per litre),

Those panelists who liked their muscats full bodied and punchy really enjoyed the "raisin and toffee" aromas and alcoholic kick. It was decided that this was definitely a wine to match a great Christmas pudding.

Fourth: De Bortolli Show Liqueur
500ml $20 ($40 per litre),

With aromas of oak, coffee and fig, this muscat didn't have the range of fragrances and was a little more muted compared with the previous three, which are made in north-east Victoria. This one is made in the Riverina of NSW.

Fifth: Golden Oak
2L $10.99 ($5.50 per litre), Dan Murphy's stores

This is described on the website as “a value-for-money muscat that is perfect for warming the soul”, which is funny because one of the panelists described it as "best used as a fire accelerant". Thin and "medicine like", the panelists instantly picked this as an imposter among the other quality Australian muscats.