Ancient Wine Varietal for Ancient Ship Expedition
Delheim Muscadel 2008 will join the Phoenician Ship Expedition, currently docked in Cape Town, as it continues up the west coast of Africa, through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean to return to Syria.
This expedition is seeking to rediscover and document the secrets of ancient Phoenician mariners by attempting to recreate one of mankind's greatest exploratory voyages, the first circumnavigation of Africa by Phoenician mariners in 600BC, in a replica Phoenician/Mediterranean vessel.
The Phoenician Ship Expedition launched from Arwad, Syria in August 2008, sailed through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea, and eventually docked at Yemen. Phase Two, launched in August 2009, saw Phoenicia rounding the Horn of Africa and sailing down the east coast. Negotiating the dangers of the Cape of Good Hope was a critical point in the expedition, but the ship is now safely berthed at the Victoria & Albert Waterfront.
The Phoenicians were regarded as 'rulers of the sea' and their trading activities reached as far as Cornwall for tin, and India and China for spices and precious goods. Delheim has loaded some of its Muscadel 2008 with this ship's cargo to follow its ancient trading route back to Syria, where the special wooden box of Delheim Muscadel 2008 will be handed to the First Lady, Asma Assad, an avid supporter of the expedition.
The Muscadel grape is the world's oldest known grape variety - it has been cultivated and harvested in the Mediterranean for more than 3,000 years and some wine historians say it was the first grape to evolve. It was certainly the first grape to be used in winemaking.
In ancient times, Muscadel was mostly used for making raisins, and Roman physicians prescribed them to cure anything from mushroom poisoning to old age! So valuable were these at the time that two jars of them were worth one slave. Pliny the Elder called it the "grape of the bees", as they are uncontrollably attracted to its powerfully sweet odour, the result of a tendency to rot slightly on the vine, developing a very soft skin and a high sugar content. There are over 200 varieties of Muscadel grape and the wine made from it was known to ancient Egyptians, Arabs and Africans.
A white Muscadel was the first wine ever made at Delheim in Stellenbosch in 1948, so it was particularly pleasing that the 2008 Muscat de Frontignon was so outstanding. Harvested late in the season at 34.3 Balling, it comprised an exceptionally good mix of healthy grapes, raisins and berries that were packed with botrytis.
Whole bunches went directly into the press for overnight skin contact, after which fermentation was induced by the addition of a selected yeast strain, and at the desired sugar level, fortification took place. To respect the fruit, no wood treatment was given, and only 3,320 bottles were produced.
Back in 1948 it was very difficult to source proper wine bottles, so Delheim's first wine was presented in a beer bottle instead. Only a small quantity of the 2008 Delheim Muscat is being sold - again in beer bottles - exclusively in the Delheim Downstairs Tasting Cellar at R95 per bottle.
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