Many people think Moscato is a sweet wine without much versatility, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are many kinds of Moscato wines as well as a variety of different uses. Besides just sipping, you can use Moscato in desserts or pair it with the right cuisine for an experience beyond compare.
What is Moscato?
Moscato is sweet, fruity, and delicate. It features low acidity, so it is better for those who struggle with heartburn. However, acidity is a key component in aging, so these types of wine don’t have as long of a shelf life like others of higher acidity.
Moscato is produced from a grape called Muscat. Muscat grapes can grow all over the world, but they date back to ancient Egypt. It’s perhaps the oldest grape in the world, although where it came from exactly, historians aren’t sure.
Of more than 200 Muscat grape varieties, the Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains are the most common. They come in red, pink, golden, white, black, and brown. A refined Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is perfect for wine while others are more suited for raisins or table grapes.
The word “Moscato” means Muscat in Italian, so technically speaking, a true Moscato is from Italy, but there are other variations everywhere. In same cases, wines made in the Moscato style are from California or Australia but will be labeled as Moscato. Popular brands reproduce the Muscat grape in their vineyards and produce sweet, fizzy wines that many oenophiles enjoy.
Moscato wines may be sparkling or still, but they are always perfumed and sweet with bursts of fruity flavor. It’s not tart or dry like Sauvignon Blanc and not as deep or bold as Merlot. The Muscat grape has low acidity and high residual sugar, producing the Moscato taste we love so much.
The Muscat grape grows particularly well in the Mediterranean climate of Italy all along with the boot and southern islands. Each region has its own take on Moscato wine containing unique characteristics that identify its heritage and production. True wine connoisseurs will pay particular attention to these subtle differences while a layperson will simply enjoy the fruity aroma and sweet flavor.
Types of Moscato
Because there are many types of Muscat grapes, there is a large assortment of Moscato wines available today. Unfortunately, a lot of these varieties are sold sparingly in the United States and you will rarely find a true Moscato. You’ll likely settle for a big brand wine produced in the country. It’s the perfect excuse to plan a vacation in Italy.
This golden, lightly sparkling variety of Moscato comes from the Piedmont region and is made from the ever-popular Muscat a Petits Grains. It’s the type of Moscato everyone seems to know, with a very small amount of alcohol, gentle bubbles, and soft, sweet flavor. It pairs well with dessert.
The Vietti Cascinetta Moscato d’Asti 2018 vintage has aromas of ginger, peaches, and rose petals. It is delicate, sparkling, and sweet. It has a modest acidity, producing a good balance and complexity. On the finish, you’ll taste apricots.
The sweetness of this wine works well as an aperitif or combined with Asian cuisine, lobster, cheese, or fruity, creamy desserts. I love this one because I prefer sweet wines, and eating it with butter-soaked lobster is a rich and heavenly meal.
Asti is also produced from the same grape in the same region, but it has more alcohol and a sweeter flavor
Martini & Rossi is one of the most popular producers of Asti Moscato worldwide. It is produced using the Moscato Bianco grape and makes a great dessert wine and is a wonderful way to relax with a glass of refreshing wine at the end of the day.
I like this one as a sipping wine because it’s sweet, refreshing, and bubbly. It satisfies my craving for something light and fizzy and is a fantastic way to spend a warm summer evening.
This Moscato is still and sweet. It comes from red or purple Muscat grapes grown in the Trentino Alto-Adige region. It produces a lovely ruby color with a slightly spicy flavor.
Grant Burge Alfresco 2018 Moscato Rosa Frizzante is a fruity, delicate wine with passionfruit, rosewater, guava, and lychee aromas. The floral top notes tickle your nose and exude a sugary musk. It has a lower alcohol content with crisp acidity for a balanced alfresco-style wine.
This choice is an excellent one because it’s just the right balance of sweet and spicy and I love it because I love a little spice on my palette.
Hailing from the same region as the Moscato Rosa, the Giallo variety has spicy aromas like orange blossom, grapefruit, and cinnamon. These grapes grow in cool climates, leading to some drier Moscato varieties.
The Manincor Moscato Giallo usings grapefruit to achieve its spicy aromas and includes delicate scents of cedarwood and nutmeg. It is fruity, bright, succulent wine that’s best served slightly chilled. It makes a great aperitif and works well paired with Asian foods and strong cheeses.
I like this Moscato variety because its warm scents combined with the sweet finish make a fun appetizer pairing for your next get together with friends.
Moscato di Pantelleria
These Moscato wines are from Pantelleria, hence the name. It’s a tiny island lying in between Tunisia and Sicily. The amber color of the Muscat of Alexandria produces something that resembles apricot. You may also find Passito de Pantelleria varieties that are very sweet dessert wines made with Muscat grapes after they’re dried.
This is another name for Muscat a Petits Grains grapes and is common on wines from Washington and California. These wines are produced in the Moscato d’Asti style and can either be sparkling or still.
The Bodkin 2016 Unto The Breach Sandy Bend Vineyard Muscat Canelli is a nutty, woodsy wine with fruity and savory flavors that produces a complex and unusual taste. It’s dry and light-bodied. This unique earthy-toned and rich-textured wine has a low alcohol content.
I love this one because if I am drinking a dry wine, I prefer a light body with an interesting texture. I enjoy the fruit flavors and the savory finish. Pair it with steak for a hearty and mouth-watering meal.
White Moscato can be still or lightly sparkling and has bold fruit flavors with exceptional floral aromas.
Primo Amore Moscato has a sweet and enticing aroma with delicate flavors. It is fruity and inviting with peach and exotic fruit fragrances. It goes well with pastries, fruit salads, or as a dessert wine on its own. It has a very low alcohol content and distinct varietal characteristics.
This dessert wine is one of my favorites because I can’t get enough of the fruity smell and tropical flavors. To really satisfy my sweet tooth, I’ll drink it with pie or donuts. It sounds crazy, but it’s wonderful.
This is typically White Moscato mixed with a little red wine. It’s usually still or lightly sparkling but it is largely popular in Australia and the United States, produced most often by big brands.
Barefoot Pink Moscato has flavors like tart raspberries, sweet pomegranates, and juicy cherries. It contains all of the classic aromas and flavors of Moscato with deep red fruit. At the finish, you’ll notice Mandarin oranges and jasmine.
The reason I like this variety is that it’s so affordable and widely available. The Barefoot brand makes award-winning wines of all types, and their Moscato varieties are especially delicious.
Red Moscato is White Moscato mixed with red wines like Zinfandel or Syrah.
Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet 2015 is a silky, smooth, rich red blend with blackberry, cherry, mocha, and chocolate notes. Toasted oak and soft vanilla create a lengthy, intense finish. You can enjoy this variety with steak, cheeseburgers, or s’mores.
The full flavor and intense aromas are one of my favorite companions when I want to indulge in something like a juicy hamburger fresh off the grill or snacks by the fire with friends.
This type of Moscato is intensely sparking and very similar to Asti wine rather than Moscato d’Asti.
Caposaldo Sparkling Peach Moscato has lively bubbles, as a sparkling Moscato should, with fresh aromas like honeysuckle, citrus, and peaches. It’s great on its own or paired with sorbets, fresh fruit, and pastries.
I love drizzling this one over my favorite ice cream and then having a glass besides. Its bubbly nature looks lovely in a champagne flute if you’re feeling especially fancy that day.
United States Moscato
Moscato is some of the most popular wine in the United States with sales rising steadily since 2010. In 2012, Moscato sales increased by 100% and most big brands couldn’t produce enough to quell the demand. It’s known as an affordable, refreshing, sipping wine that’s easy to drink.
Beringer, Barefoot, Sutter Home, and Woodbridge are the most common brands manufactured in the United States, and Australian brand, Yellowtail is also widely available. They are not expensive and the majority are in the Moscato d’Asti style, but labeling varies by the brand is not consistent.
Serving Moscato Wine
Unless fortified with other spirits, Moscato is best served chilled. A chilled Moscato has soft sweetness and shining floral flavors. The serving temperature varies by style, but don’t worry too much about that. It’s always better for your Moscato to be too cold than it is to be too warm. Here’s a quick temperature guide for your reference.
The coldest of the Moscato varieties should be sparkling Moscato. They should be served around 40 degrees for light, crisp bubbles.
Still White or Still Pink
Similar to light-bodied white wines like Pinot Grigio or Riesling, a still white or pink Moscato should be served around 45 degrees.
Light-bodied, fruity reds like Moscato Rosa should be served at around 50 degrees. Slightly chilling these varieties makes their distinct complexity more identifiable and enjoyable.
Fortified wines like Port, Sherry, and some Moscatos should be enjoyed at room temperature because they have a very concentrated flavor that resonates best between 60 and 70 degrees.
Moscato Food Pairings
Pairing wine and food are all about balance. For sweet wines like Moscato and other dessert wines, you should choose flavor profiles that are salty, sour, bitter, or spicy. Moscato is often too sweet to sip with a meal, but it goes great with brunch, appetizers, and desserts. You may also enjoy Moscato alone to stimulate your appetite for the main course.
Whereas wines with high alcohol content can intensify the effects of spicy food, the low alcohol content, and sweetness of Moscato tone it down. Many cultures have known for their spicy cuisine use Moscato in their food pairings. You can enjoy a sweet Moscato with Indian food, Thai food, Sichuan flavors, or habanero spices.
Cured Meats, Seeds, and Nuts
The saltiness of cured meats, seeds, and nuts balances out the sweet Moscato, making it much more enjoyable as it fizzes in your mouth. Pair your Moscato with salami, prosciutto, almonds, or peanuts.
Moscato pairs well with a fun platter of crunchy crackers and veggies. Try celery, carrots, radishes, and cucumbers.
Creamy cheeses like Camembert and brie have strong flavors that match the fruity profile of Moscato while pungent cheese like blue cheese is balanced out by the Moscato’s sweetness. In order to get the most out of the cheese flavor, serve it at room temperature.
Pairing a Moscato with sweet breakfasts like waffles or pancakes with fruit or whipped cream toppings makes all the sweet flavors dance on your tongue. That is if you’re brave enough to enjoy a little wine with your first meal of the day.
Fruity desserts like cobblers and pies match the sweet, fruity flavor of the Moscato while vanilla desserts like ice cream, rice pudding, or creme brulee harmonize well with a peach or berry flavored Moscato.
A fan favorite is pairing the chocolate cake with a red Moscato to enhance the complexity of the flavors, draw out the bitterness of the chocolate, and complement the sweetness of the Moscato. Don’t forget the scoop of vanilla ice cream to complete the creamy, decadent flavor profile.
The best thing about Moscato is its versatility. You can use it as a mix-in with other cocktails, you can add a splash to your cooking, you can pair it with many types of food, or you can enjoy it on its own. If you want to make your own Moscato concoctions, there’s no better way than to experiment to see what you like the best.
Before refrigeration, wine spoiled on the long journey overseas because wine barrels were not airtight. Wine manufacturers began adding spirits to wine to increase the alcohol content and prevent it from spoiling so fast. Purists were against this adulteration, but today we see the popularity of fortified Moscato and other wines everywhere.
Instead of buying a fortified Moscato, try mixing your favorite Moscato with your favorite Brandy at varying ratios until you satisfy your own thirst for the right balance of sweetness and strong flavor.
If you’re frying up your favorite vegetables, throw in a splash of Moscato to enhance the flavor and draw out the sweetness of the vegetables. Saute fresh bell peppers, onions, and zucchini with a light Moscato for a refreshing summer side dish.
Most Moscato is fabulous on its own. It’s a refreshing, everyday wine that everyone can enjoy. Try different varieties to see which you like the best for sipping. With so many kinds out there, you’re bound to find the perfect one for you.
Fun Things to Know About Moscato
Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Moscato, there’s more. For instance, did you know it has its own day? Oh, yes. It’s also one of the most popular wines in the United States. These facts and many others endear it to many and will make you want to try it yourself.
As if Moscato needed a bigger ego, it has its own day. May 9th is the day to celebrate, in case you didn’t know. It’s easy enough to swing by the store on the way home, and affordable Moscato is everywhere. Not to mention, there are so many different kinds that everyone will find something they love to celebrate.
Popularity in the United States
Americans love a good Moscato. And cheap Moscato. And a fruity Moscato. Basically, we just love Moscato. Since 2010, Moscato has topped the charts. Year over year, sales spike upwards of 70%, and sometimes as much as 100%. While sales have tapered, they certainly haven’t fallen off.
Even Millenials Love It
Studies show that people 40 years old and younger are twice as likely as anyone else to buy Moscato than most other wine varieties. Why is that? Probably because it appeals to many different types of people. It’s versatile, and we like that. It could also have something to do with the fact that hip hop artists like Drake and Nicki Minaj have all had something to say about it, too.
Old, but Versatile
These two terms aren’t normally synonymous, but Muscat is one of the oldest, most versatile grape varieties known to man. It’s a juicy table grape, makes sweet raisins, and can be made into many different wines. That’s because there are many different types of grapes in the Muscat family, each with its own unique qualities. We make wine, and we call it Moscato, but it’s not all the same.
See some Moscato comparisons here:
Finding the Perfect Moscato
Moscato’s versatility and affordability make it a wine that everyone loves. You have an endless amount of options when it comes to enjoying it on its own or with something else. It’s a cheap wine with a not-so-cheap flavor, making it the ideal choice for any event, any meal, any time.