All about Moscato
Moscato is a must-have for any brunch or barbeque offering dreamy vivacity and easy-sipping flavors. While seemingly simple on the surface – behind the label, this wine carries centuries of captivating history. Cuttings have been carried and moved along with some of history’s most triumphant and tragic events. The muscat wine family, which the Italian’s refer to collectively as moscato, is considered to include the world’s oldest grapes. There are over 200 varieties of grape that fill the branches, and vines, of the muscat family tree. This fresh, sometimes fizzy wine is enjoyed around the world and has experienced booms and busts in its popularity. Various countries and cultures have gifted unique translations, featuring the affix ‘muscat’ to refer to the grape while vinifying unique regional styles. The muscat grape in Italy, endearingly, is moscato or moscatello. The Spanish and their Portuguese neighbors refer to the grape as moscatel. In Greece, you will hear the grape called either moschato or moschoudia. In Germany, the grapes are known as muskateller or muskat. Regardless of what name it goes by or where it is grown - moscato is a charming, flirty wine that has been enjoyed since the 14th century.
Today, moscato is often misunderstood as a simple, sweet wine that mature wine drinkers opt-to skip. However, with its complexity and style versatility, the grapes can be made into delicious off-dry, playfully sparkling, still and even fortified wines. While the muscat grape family is abundant - key varieties make up most of the production, sales and sipping. Moscato blanco, or muscat blanc, is the golden child of the grape family and arguably the most recognized and valued. The grape produces some of the world’s best white wines. Sweet with tempting bubbles - Moscato d’Asti is fizzy, fragrant and likely the most popular style made from the grape. The light acidity and body beautifully balance with the sweetness of the straw-colored wine. Aromatic notes of apricot and summer peach enveloped with hints of delicate florals including orange blossom and honeysuckle make up the nose of the wine. Interestingly, the wine also has a unique muskiness which has become a distinguished mark of moscato. It is also the only wine known to express with the same aroma of the grape itself.
The lush palate parallels the aromatics with ripe stone fruit, candied citrus zest and even sage. This semi-sparkling wine, known as a frizzante, is a delight to drink. In fact, Paul Quaglini, our Italian wine specialist, bets, “If you put a glass of Moscato d’Asti in front of most people, they will be sure to fall in love.” Paul personally recommends two of his favorite labels - Ca' D'Gal Moscato D'Asti Lumine or Vietti Moscato d'Asti. These wines should be enjoyed young and fresh - the latest vintage. Be sure to serve it chilled, in a white wine glass.
Asti Spumante, typically just called Asti, is also made from moscato blanco grapes and is stylistically similar but made of a single fermentation. Asti is also less sweet with more serious bubbles. Spumante means ‘fully sparkling’ and the wine’s effervescence makes it a full sparkling wine complete with Champagne cork and wire cage. Asti should be served chilled in a narrow, tall Champagne glass. Both popular moscato styles carry Italy’s most esteemed DOCG classification.
Ready to taste? Browse our Moscato labels on sale.
Moscato’s native home is still debated – evidence and records exist that tie the grape to either Italy, Greece or even the Middle East. There does seem to be some agreement; however, that the grape was moved by the Romans into France over 2,000 years ago. Today, the grape is widespread and grown globally having followed the tendrils of history. However, Germany, France, Australia and, most principally, Italy are most recognized for moscato. The grape flourishes in Italy’s climate with the Piemonte region celebrated as the most prestigious producer. Piemonte is segmented into 59 appellations and considered one of Italy’s best wine making regions. This region, which rests at the foothill of the Alps, is swaddled with warm Mediterranean sun and cool mountain air. The temperature tug-of-war, between day and night, supports the maturation of the grape which is known to ripen late in season.
Moscato is unique in that it sips well solo, as an aperitif or as a food pairing. With so many styles, the wine truly enhances tastes from all cuisines as well as desserts. Like other sweet white varietals, moscato is also known to pair especially well with spicy, peppery foods. The inherently low alcohol and sweetness work to mellow any chili-based dish. Try pairing a moscato the next time you sit for a spicy Szechuanese beef or stir fry. Grab a handful of any salty snack – nuts, salami or prosciutto, along with a chilled glass of moscato for an ideal contrast. For a cheese pairing, Paul Quaglini shared that, “A super ripe, runny gorgonzola is a delight with moscato’s effervesce and acidity. It is a beautiful play on your palate.”
If you consider yourself a brunch boss or babe - instead of a mimosa try a fresh Moscato d’Asti. Any brunch menu will feature flavors that will balance well with sweet bubbles. For a dessert pairing ensure that the wine is a hint sweeter than the menu selection. Also, any dessert with a fruit element is a win-win with a chilled, sweet moscato which will bring forward the wine’s fruit flavors.
Already find yourself mused by the magic of moscato, but looking to add to your list?
Paul would recommend a sweet German riesling as it shares some characteristics with moscato, but will provide different aromas and flavors to expand your drinking experience.