Moscato wine is famous for its sweet flavors of peach, orange blossom and nectarine. The name originates from Italy, but the Muscat grape may be one of the oldest cultivated varieties in the world. It’s time to rediscover Moscato wine.
What is Moscato Wine?
In most cases Moscato wine is a sweet, slightly bubbly (aka frizzante) white wine made from Muscat Blanc grapes often referred to more specifically as Moscato d’Asti. (see below for examples of more Mostcato styles). Though Moscato is often sweet, its low alcohol (5-7% ABV) and refreshing flavor profile makes Moscato more than just a dessert wine.
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Where does Moscato come from?
Moscato grows everywhere. From Italy to Brazil, Moscato’s presence over thousands of years in many different cultures suggests that the Muscat grape variety is really old. Moscato could be the oldest cultivated vitis vinifera grape.
Moscato has one of the most unique smells of all wine. It’s so unique that wine people often just describe it just as “Muscat Aroma,” which is not that helpful. Scientists studied the floral aromatics in Muscat and found prevalence of a chemical compound called linalool, which is also found naturally occurring in mint, citrus flowers and cinnamon.
There are a few Muscat variants that are both white and red. If you’ve tried a sweet dessert wine made of Muscat such as Sherry, chances are it’s Muscat of Alexandria or Orange Muscat. If you have a light bubbly Moscato d’Asti, then you are drinking a white Muscat grape called Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. Despite the differences in style, all Muscat wines have very similar flavors.
3 Major Styles of Moscato Wine
Sparkling Moscato d’Asti (most common)
Made with Muscat Blanc. This style is most commonly found in Italy and it’s called Moscato d’Asti. This sweet frizzante bubbly wine is noted for its high aromatics and light alcohol level (close to 5-6% ABV). This style is produced primarily with white Muscat Blanc grapes.
Most Pink Moscato is made with Muscat Blanc grapes with the addition of Merlot for color.
Muscat Blanc or Moscatel. This wine is typically white in color and uses either Muscat Blanc or Zibibbo grape. This style is less common, however some of these examples are made to be completely dry reaching alcohol levels of close to 12% ABV.
Made with Moscatel. This style is most commonly from the South of France, Southern Spain, Australia and the US. The wines are typically made with Moscatel grapes (aka Muscat of Alexandria) or Orange Muscat and have a thick oily texture as well as tawny color. Oak aging is common.
Moscato Wine Characteristics
- FRUIT FLAVORS
- Apricot, Peach, Nectarine, Meyer Lemon, Orange
- OTHER AROMAS (herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth, other)
- Honeysuckle, Vanilla Bean, Rose, Orange Blossom, Perfume, Jasmine, Caramel
- SERVING TEMPERATURE
- Sparkling Moscato Serving temperature: 45 °F (7 °C)
- White Still Moscato Serving Temperature: 50 °F (10 °C)
- Dessert Muscat Serving Temperature: 60 °F (15 °C)
- SIMILAR VARIETIES
- Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Prosecco, Chenin Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Malvasia
- MUSCAT GRAPE VARIETIES
- Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (aka Muscat Blanc), Zibibbo (aka Muscat of Alexandria, Moscatel), Moscato Giallo (a rouge version of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Black Muscat, Orange Muscat, Muscat Ottonel (found in Eastern Europe), Moscatel de Setúbal (Found in Portugal)
Moscato Food Pairing
Two words: “Chinese Food”. If I had to choose just one wine for pairing with Szechuan, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, I’d pick a Moscato wine. It handles spicy foods perfectly since alcohol levels tend to be low and the sweetness tends to be high. Moscato loves aromatic spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and chile peppers. Wines like Moscato bode well with lighter meats like chicken and light flaky fish but can stand up to BBQ Pork just as well as an ice cold coke.
Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Light Flaky Fish, Pork Tenderloin, Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, Halibut, Cod, BBQ Pork
Spices and Herbs
Cinnamon, Ginger, Galangal, Basil, Lime, Mint, Cardamom, Chili Peppers, Cayenne Pepper, Clove, Shallots, BBQ Sauce, Teriyaki, Sweet and Sour, Orange, Marjoram, Cashew, Peanut, Fennel, Cilantro
Medium – Firm Cheeses Look for sheep and cow’s milk cheeses
Vegetables & Vegetarian Fare
Carrots, Celery, Fennel, Tofu, Red and Yellow Bell Pepper, Mango, Pineapple, Orange, Green Onion