muscat_goldert_1996.JPGWhen we saw it on the wine list at Cru, we rubbed our eyes in such disbelief that you could almost hear that signature squeaky sound if you listened closely. There it was, a 1989 Zind-Humbrecht Muscat Goldert from Alsace, France. It went against everything we were taught to know about Muscat. We were told that wines made from the Muscat grapes were best enjoyed young. That the fresh floral and grapey aromas would grow tired with age and that it was certainly not a wine that would improve with some time in the bottle. But here was a Muscat that was 18 years old, from one of the best producers in the region. Our curiosity got the best of us; maybe aged Muscat was misunderstood. We had to taste it to find out (at a cost of around $90).

To say we were surprised by what we experienced is a bit of an understatement. When the sommelier poured it in the glass we expected a golden yellow color reflective of the years spent in the bottle, but what we saw was pale yellow. The nose completely threw us off—unmistakably spearmint—and on the palate it was lean and dry. It was unlike any wine we had tasted before. As it sat in the glass it developed further, with slight notes of honey and butterscotch poking through. With each sip we searched for any indication of Muscat qualities (the grapey flavor and that signature perfumed aroma) but got nothing. The wine completely changed and evolved into something distinctive and special.

The ability to change is one of the great and unique attributes of wine and spirits. What causes this evolution is the slow influence of tiny amounts of oxygen seeping through the cork and the changing structure of wine, causing the different properties of tannin, alcohol, acid and fruit to integrate. That’s why Barolos and Bordeauxs are best with some age on them—the influence of oxygen softens the tannins, the acid becomes well integrated and the fruit flavors evolve to secondary aromas like leather, spice and earth.

By the last glass, we can’t say if the aged Muscat was better then the young. They are so different it would be unfair to compare the two. But holy crap, to taste a side of Muscat that completely challenged and changed our thoughts about this tiny-berried grape is enough to make the $90 price tag seem like a bargain. At least until the halo effect has worn off and the American Express bill arrives.