June 1, 2016
Wine of the Week: Moscato
Moscato, the sweet white from Italy, is low in alcohol and incredibly easy to drink, making it the star wine of the younger, hipper crowds. You may be very familiar with Moscato through pop culture, but let's rediscover this refreshing and fruity wine:
What is Moscato?
Moscato is a sweet white from the region of Piedmont, Italy, historically known as a dessert wine. Its slight fizz, low alcohol (5-7% ABV), fresh fruity flavors of nectarine, peach, apricot and orange make it very pleasing to the taste buds and incredibly easy to drink. Moscato has such a unique smell that some often just describe it as “Muscat Aroma”, which says a lot!
Moscato is made from the Muscat grape, which happens to be one of the most versatile grapes there is: Muscat is not only used to produce the sweet wine, it is also eaten regularly as a table grape and turned into raisins. This ability to be enjoyed in its true fruit form as well as for winemaking is due to the grape’s high sugar content, as opposed to some other varieties that contain higher acid or more tannins.
Moscato, the Millennials’ Wine
Moscato has recently exploded onto the scene, making it one of the top selling wines in the United States for years. In 2015, over 20 million people were buying Moscato in a three-month period.
The widespread success of the wine is not due to its promotion by sommeliers or wine professionals, but surprisingly by hip-hop stars! It all started back in 2005, with this famous rap line by Lil Kim: "Still over in Brazil sippin' moscato, ya must have forgot though, so I'mma take you back to the block yo."
Drake, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, Jay-Z, Kanye quickly followed, mentioning Moscato in several hit songs. Nicki Minaj even made it her own drink, a fruit-infused moscato. They were all involved in the gigantic boost that made the wine so popular, especially among millennials. According to 2015 data, “frequent wine drinkers under 40 are more than twice as likely to purchase Moscato when compared with 26 other popular varietals”.
Rappers may have helped popularize Moscato in recent years, but part of its appeal is also due to how easy it is to drink and enjoy. Often referred to as a “wine for the uninitiated”, Moscato’s noticeable sweetness and low alcohol make it easy to drink heartily, without intimidation. Not saying that Moscato cannot be enjoyed on a more complex level, but no need for a well-trained nose/palate or a wine glossary. It is also a relatively inexpensive wine, which makes it the beverage of choice for younger crowds.
Fun fact: Moscato might be recently popular, but the Muscat grape may be one of the oldest cultivated varieties in the world, possibly the oldest cultivated vitis vinifera grape. Its presence over thousands of years in many different cultures suggests that the grape variety is really old.
How to enjoy your Moscato?
While Moscato is perfect for sipping alone, it’s also a great pairing, just like Riesling, for spicy foods. The wine tends to handle spiciness incredibly well, since alcohol levels are low and sweetness is high. Think Thai, Szechuan or Vietnamese cuisine.