Topaque and Muscat

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Topaque and Muscat, extremely sweet fortified wines that used to be called Liqueur Tokay and Liqueur Muscat. They taste something like a cross between madeira and traditional dark málaga, and are two of australia’s great gifts to the world made from, respectively, muscadelle, traditionally known as Tokay in Australia, and a very dark-skinned strain of muscat blanc à petits grains, called here Brown Muscat. The centre of production is a hot north eastern corner of the state of Victoria around the towns of Rutherglen and Glenrowan. Grapes are semi-raisined on the vine, partially fermented, and then fortified with grape spirit before being subjected to an unusual wood-ageing programme that resembles a cross between a sherry solera and, under many a hot tin roof, a Madeira estufagem. The results can be uncannily fine quality, are bottled when they are ready to drink, and do not change with bottle age. These wines are quite sweet enough to serve with virtually any dessert. In the late 1990s, the winemakers of Rutherglen joined forces to create a four-tier nomenclature for Muscat (and, by extension, Topaque). At the bottom is Rutherglen Muscat, next is Classic, then Grand, and finally Rare. It is a voluntary, self-regulated system, but is a very real guarantee of style, which becomes progressively richer and more complex with each tier. Rare is released in tiny quantities each year, limited by the maintenance of a very old Solera base.