Moscato – it’s polarizing, frivolous, even flirty, but there is no denying that it is a wine that is so pure and expressive that it is often described as “summertime in a glass”
For most wine drinkers, moscato is best known by its popular and pretty incarnation of moscato d’Asti. This lightly sparkling, definitely sweet, chock-full-of-summer-fruit wine is fun and refreshing. It is also typically very low in alcohol, with most safely nestled in the less than 7 percent alcohol range. While the grape “Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains”, AKA moscato, AKA muscat blanc, or any of the many other names it is known by, is likewise found in a variety of styles. The grape is well known for its intense, floral, almost “grapey” scent and flavour, and is one of the few grapes that can make a wine that tastes like grapes. Sounds strange, but anyone who likes Welch’s grape juice can attest that purple grape juice tastes nothing like wine.
Muscat, with all its summer flavours of oranges, peaches, and fresh flowers, isn’t a great candidate for cellaring. Most should be purchased, chilled, and opened in the same day, or at least in the same season. These are at their best young, fresh, and exuberant. Moscato d’Asti, which comes from northern Italy, is made and stored in large tanks and only bottled when the demand dictates – to best preserve the youthful character that drinkers are looking for.
Relatively new to the moscato scene is “pink moscato”, the wine has a bright pink colour and is typically blended with a little red wine such as merlot to get the colour without a lot of addition to the flavour. Some people love them, some absolutely hate them, but they usually have plenty of sweetness, and on the nose, they often have a slight icing sugar or confection note. I’ve yet to find a good food pairing for pink moscato, but I’ll keep trying.
Drier muscats can be paired with Thai or Asian cuisine as well as seafood, while sweeter examples are great with fruity salads or can be enjoyed on their own. Both types should be served well chilled. For glassware, a smaller, tulip shaped white wine glass is usually best, though the fine glassware juggernaut Riedel recommends a coupe style glass allowing the intense aromas to breathe.
Remember when I said it was fun? Although some people take them seriously, these wines are meant for casual entertaining, sharing with friends, and enjoying around the patio.
Go on, have some fun with your wine.
Castello di Gabbiano 2012 Moscato d’Asti, Italy
Tropical and fresh with peaches, pears, and puréed fruits with plenty of floral aromas. Once you take a sip, honey and pears, with more peach fruits and a nice lemony finish. Sure you can drink it any way you’d like, but well chilled in the great outdoors is the best. $18
Intenso NV Bubbles Moscato, Brazil
Sparkling moscato from Brazil? Incredibly popular with Brazilians, sparkling moscato might be the national wine. This bottle from Sierra Gaucha is pretty well a perfect example of what this grape can do. Juicy, fruity, lower in alcohol, it is perfect for summer or fond wishes for the end of winter. $17
Beringer 2012 Moscato, California
A heady nose typical of moscato with big fruits, tons of floral characters and much more lead into flavours bright, bold, and more than a little off-dry. Perfect for casual enjoyment, it’ll be best enjoyed well chilled. $12
Lindemans 2012 Bin 90 Moscato, South Eastern Australia
Plenty of floral aromas with green apple, lime, soapstone mineral notes, and a bit more. On the attack, off-dry, bright fruits, zingy acids, and a slightly waxy finish should pair well with appetizers, citrus flavours or on its own. $12
Eberle 2011 Muscat Canelli, Paso Robles, California
Honey aromas, grape must, citrus, and oranges lead on the nose with a little mineral and apple aromas for good measure. Off-dry, and still, not sparkling, the flavours are fresh, floral, and the acids are well-balanced for the sweetness. Delicious. $20
Benjamin Bridge Nova 7, Nova Scotia
With a touch of colour and more than a dollop of sweetness, this all-round summer sipper is loaded with fruit flavours and some delicate fizz. Best of all? This blend of several muscats hails from Nova Scotia! Benjamin Bridge is well known for producing some of the finest sparklers in Canada. $30