Muscat of Rutherglen

If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting our beautiful region, you'll know that Rutherglen is the Muscat capital of the world. We don't like to brag (okay, fine, we do), but our Muscat is the world's best and most awarded.

Muscat of Rutherglen offers a depth of flavour, texture and complexity like no other wine style. It provides a highly sophisticated and diverse drinking experience that reflects the rural surroundings of the region and our unique site, where it has been grown, produced and bottled by hand.

There is no denying that Muscat of Rutherglen is an Australian treasure. An impossible wine to replicate due to the essence and artistry of multiple generations. At Stanton & Killeen, our Muscat has been lovingly handcrafted and nurtured by seven generations of winemakers and vignerons. The result is an intense, rich and sensuous style that can stand heroically on its own, over ice as an aperitif or mixed in cocktails. You can also enjoy Muscat alongside various savoury dishes, full-flavoured cheeses and desserts.

So, you might ask, what makes Rutherglen so exceptional for growing and producing Muscat? Well, It comes down to many factors. Let's explore a few.

The Muscat.More than 200 varieties of Muscat are grown globally, but here in Rutherglen, we only use the high-quality Muscat à Petits Grains Rouge, renowned for its intensity due to the smaller berries providing more colour and flavour. The Muscat clones we use are specific to Rutherglen and have grown here for more than 140 years.

The climate.Nestled in Victoria's High Country, alongside the Great Dividing Range and the Murray River, Rutherglen, at 130-180m altitude, has a classic Continental climate. Our winter and spring are wet (yearly avg. 580ml), allowing the vineyards to retain excellent moisture well into the growing period. Our summer days are long and hot, followed by cool, dry nights with air from the mountains settling on the undulations of Rutherglen; this prevents disease, mould and mildew. Most importantly, our autumn is long, warm and (usually) dry, which allows up to two weeks of extended ripening. These weather conditions allow the grapes to ripen naturally on the vine, not through mat-drying methods employed in other sweet fortified styles. This ripening process provides the depth and intensity of Muscat flavour and the fruit lusciousness for which Rutherglen and Stanton & Killeen is famous.

The soil.Soils vary across Rutherglen and vineyard sites. At Stanton & Killeen, you'll find mainly red loam over clay. Locally referred to as 'Rutherglen Loam', this soil is rich in minerals and has good moisture-holding ability, beneficial in Rutherglen's warm and dry climate. Other grounds in Rutherglen include fine sandy loam, where the riverbank once ran, and shale and quartz bands; while this is a more challenging profile for vines, it does produce intensely flavoured fruit.

Vine age. Most of the Muscat vines grown in the Rutherglen region are between 30-50 years old. With age comes a richer and more intense flavour profile. At Stanton & Killeen, our 'Jack's Block' Muscat vineyard is 102-years-old and still, to this day, produces some of our highest-quality fruit.

The winemaking.Muscat is one of the last varieties we harvest at the end of the vintage(April - May). Muscat production is not for the faint of heart as we need to leave the grapes to ripen for as long as possible - risking spoilage by early autumn rains or botrytis. However, their rich harvest is worth the wait. In good years, the sugar in the grapes may reach more than 20 Baumé ( a measurement of the dissolved solids in grape juice that indicates the grapes' sugar level and ripeness and, therefore, the potential alcohol in the wine); we harvest most vintages at 17 or 18 Baumé.

After harvesting, the Muscat is fermented on skins for a short period, creating 1-2% alcohol before the addition of fortifying spirit stops fermentation after pressing. In contrast, dry table wine is usually picked at 12-13 Baumé and is fermented until that level drops to around 0.2, signalling that all sugar has now converted into alcohol. Whereas with Muscat, we want to keep the sugar high, and we raise the alcohol level by adding a fortifying spirit, usually a pure grape spirit.

Extracting the syrupy juice from Muscat is an incredibly sticky task - a high level of patience is required when pressing all of the rich liquid from the raisined fruit.

The casks & barrels.Following fermentation, the new Muscat is transferred to mature oak casks of various sizes; many Stanton & Killeen Muscat casks are 100+ years old. Mature oak allows the flavours of the Muscat to integrate and mature, but without the overt influence of new oak. Our aged casks and barrels are merely vessels that provide the medium for slow and gentle maturation. In other words, it is the flavour of the fruit, not oak, that is of the highest importance when creating Muscat of Rutherglen. The ratio of big and small casks depends on our winemaker's blending program—the smaller the cask, the quicker the concentration and development of the wine. Cask sizes can vary from 60 to 50,000 litres. The largest cask we have at Stanton & Killeen is 5000 litres.

Interestingly, the placement of casks or barrels can influence the development of Muscat, with wine from barrels in warmer areas of the winery maturing faster than those kept in colder areas. Similarly, wine development accelerates over summer and slows down during winter.

Evaporation also plays an integral part in the maturation of Muscat. On average, the maturing casks lose 3-5% of their volume per year to the 'angels'. Over 20 years, the angels get half of every barrel. The evaporation makes the production of these wines a costly enterprise, but without this process, our Muscat would not have its title of 'world's richest wine.'

The Blending.Contrary to popular belief, age is only one factor in determining the complexity of Muscat. At Stanton & Killeen, we create our final Muscat blends using a modified solera system - a blending and ageing process that ensures consistency of style.

When blending a Muscat, let's say it's our famous Classic Muscat; we're looking to stay true to our S&K house style, meaning our Classic Muscat will taste the same every time, even if it is decades between cellar door visits. We're also looking to keep the Muscat blend at an average of 12 years barrel-aged. When we say average age, that doesn't mean that every ml of Muscat used in the blend is 12 years old; more that the average age of all Muscat used in the blend equates to an average age of 12 years. We use different vintages of all ages, and each brings something unique to the blend. Young Muscat brings freshness, fruit and florals, and older Muscat brings complexity, acidity and depth - you need a perfect balance of both depending on which tier of Muscat you are creating.

The Muscat of Rutherglen Classification System.Muscat of Rutherglen is classified using a tiered system that indicates the level of complexity of the wine. The four descriptions mark progression in richness, complexity, age and intensity of flavour. Age is only one factor in determining a wine's classification, but it does provide an important clue. Each producer of Muscat of Rutherglen has their own "House Style" within the classification system. Stanton & Killeen is one of six Muscat houses to produce the complete classification of Muscat, all four tiers, each with a distinctive flavour and level of complexity.

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Rutherglen MuscatAverage age: 3-5 years

This is the foundation style of the Rutherglen classification system. Muscats in the Rutherglen tier display fresh fruit aromas, rich fruit on the palate, and a significant length of flavour. Stanton & Killeen's house style of Rutherglen Muscat is fresh raisins with marmalade and rose petals. The rose petal or Turkish Delight flavours in Stanton & Killeen Muscat are specific to our site and soil.

Tasting notes: Muscat fruit, raisin and rose petals.

Classic MuscatAverage age: 8-12 years

We call this the 'Goldilocks' tier. It has beautiful fresh fruit but a much greater richness and complexity, exhibiting the beginnings of mature wood-aged characters from its extended time on oak.

Tasting notes: Turkish Delight, raisin, fruit cake and walnuts.

Grand MuscatAverage age: 12-19 years

Grand Muscat takes the flavour of Muscat to a higher level of development, displaying a new level of intensity, depth and concentration of flavour, mature wood-aged characters, and complexity that imparts layers of texture and flavour.

Tasting notes: Coffee, toffee, Christmas spice, molasses

Rare MuscatAverage age: above 20 years

Rare Muscat is the pinnacle of the style and the richest and most complete wine in the classification. Rare Muscat displays deep colour, intense fruit and mature oak characters, a rich, viscous texture, and an extraordinary depth of mellowed complex flavours. Stanton & Killeen's Rare Muscat is incredibly special to us as it includes parcels of Muscat dating back to the 1970s - this means that four generations would have worked on this particular wine at some point in history.

Tasting notes: Christmas spice, coffee bean, dark chocolate.

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Muscat of Rutherglen is a world-recognised and critically-acclaimed wine style unique to Rutherglen, with a proud history spanning over 100 years of family winemaking. The blending skills required to produce Muscat of Rutherglen have been passed down from generation to generation, with winemakers plying their craft to share their skills and artistry with Muscat lovers, like you, from all over the world.