There’s always a trending wine or three, and in recent years Moscato has for sure been on the list.
Its rise has been astronomical thanks in no small part to a slew of rappers and pop culture figures mentioning it. Sure, the wine cognoscenti might snub it as a “training wheels” type wine, but beginners have to start somewhere, and this low alcohol, sweet white wine is the perfect launchpad into the world of wine.
A rapper’s delight
Moscato isn’t exactly a new wine. But it definitely found a new foothold among younger folks over the past decade or so. Its rise in sales can be attributed, at least in part, to stars like Drake, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West.
And unlike, say, Cristal or Ace of Spades, Moscato is cheap. You can get a decent bottle for about the price of a sandwich. This mass appeal is exactly what the wine world needs to introduce a wide swath of people to wine.
While Moscato’s popularity may be new its history is not. The sweet wine is derived from the Muscat family of grapes – which includes more than 200 varieties and is thought to be the oldest domesticated grape class. The grapes range in color from white (Muscat Ottonel) to yellow (Muscato Giallo) to pink (Moscato rosa del Trentino) to near black (Muscat Hamburg) and can be found growing all over the world – in nearly every climate. Long before Canadian artist Drake crooned about “lobster, shrimp, a glass of Moscato” or Kanye West enlighted his fans that “Saracco Moscato, it does taste better [than Cristal,]” the pinkish colored beverage had long been established in the wine world.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the Muscat family of grapes. However, history suggests the Muscat grape’s birthplace (and consequently, its namesake) was the Greek city of Moshato located in the southwest corner of Athens. While this area is not the largest producer of Muscat varietals today, it has proven to be one of the most sustainable and dependable sources for Muscat grapes in the world.
Styles of Moscato
The most notable variations of the Muscat family is Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, or Moscato Bianco (White Muscat). Winemakers can shape it into a variety of styles; crisp and dry, slightly sweet and sparkling, or a superbly rich and decadent dessert wine from the Asti region of Northwestern Italy.
Moscato d’Asti is the low-alcohol, more refined version. Plain old Asti (formerly Spumante) is the sparkling version, and described by The Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil as “a non-collector’s wine if ever there was one. All Moscato should be drank young, as it loses much of the fresh fruit flavors within a few years.
Another popular Muscat variety, Muscat of Alexandria, is commonly used in the production of French Vin doux natural. The fruit can be found growing along the coast in the South of France and parts of Spain and on the Argentine coast of South America – where it is often used to fortify off-dry and sweet wines. In recent years, cross varieties of the wine grape have been found thriving in both Germany and Switzerland – giving life to more vibrant, heavier bodied local and regional blends.
Flavor and aroma
For the uninitiated, it’s easy to see why Moscato has such appeal. Compared to other wines, it delivers a basket of likable flavors – ripe peaches, apricots, melon, nectarine and Meyer lemon, along with a certain “muskiness” (hence the name Muscat) sometimes described as dirty earth or stale basement. Thankfully that dank aroma takes a backseat to the enticing fruit forward profile.
Serving and food pairing
Ideally, its best chilled and served around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Whether you decide to serve it during dinner or with dessert, the idea is to achieve balance.
Given Moscato’s sweetness, ideally, it is best paired with foods two styles of food – either sweet desserts, or spicy, salty and bitter foods like cheese and cured meat. It couples well with poached fish or lobster and makes a fine accompaniment to a crudite platter. Some people might find pure bliss is a perfectly chilled glass of Asti and a simple gelato.
Or just enjoy it as a simple treat on a warm day!
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