What Is Moscato Wine?

A Guide to Buying and Drinking Moscato Wine

Midsection Of Waiter Pouring Wine In Glass At Restaurant
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In This Article

"Moscato "is the Italian word for the muscat family of grapes, and frequently refers to a lightly sparkling, low-alcohol sweet white wine. With flavors of citrus, stone fruit, and orange blossom, moscato d'Asti is a crowd favorite with new and seasoned wine drinkers alike. Although authentic moscato d'Asti and Asti spumante (two popular types of moscato wine) can only be made in Piedmont, Italy, muscat grapes are grown and used to make wine around the world.

Fast Facts

  • Regions: Piedmont, Trentino-Alto Adige, Pantelleria, California, Australia, Spain, Germany
  • Origin: Piedmont, Italy
  • Sweetness: Very sweet to semi-sweet
  • Color: Pale yellow to light red
  • ABV: 5–13% 

Taste and Flavor Profile

Most widely available moscato wine is made in the style of moscato d'Asti. The frizzante (semi-sparkling) wine is known for its perfume-like fragrance, light-body, low alcohol content, and dazzling fruit-forward profile with a welcoming sweet factor. Moscato's inherent aromatics include orange blossom, honeysuckle, almonds, and ginger with flavors of ultra-expressive fruit like green grapes, citrus, and ripe peach. The delicate cascade of bubbles, light body, and sweetness make it a refreshing addition to brunch, a hot summer day, or even dessert.

The white wine is low in tannins, but there are red wine grapes in the muscat family. Black muscat can be used to make a red moscato with berry and floral notes, although it's not particularly common. Most moscato wines are white, with varying levels of sweetness, acidity, and bubbles.

How to Taste Wine

Follow these steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:

  1. Look: Take a good look at the wine through the glass, examining the color and opacity.
  2. Smell: Swirl your glass for 10 seconds and take a quick whiff. Stick your nose into the wine glass for a deep inhale, taking in your first impressions of the wine.
  3. Taste: Take a small sip and let it move around your mouth. Note the sugar, acidity, tannins, and alcohol content when first tasting, then move on to tasting notes (fruit, spice, wood) and finally the finish.

Grapes and Wine Regions

While moscato is known as a popular white wine, it's really just the Italian word for an entire family of grapes. Muscat grapes can be made into still, sparkling, red, white, sweet, and fortified wines. Moscato bianco, the family of white muscat grapes including muscat blanc, Alexandria, and blanc à petits grains, has been cultivated for hundreds of years. These grapes are used to make the popular DOCG-certified moscato d'Asti as well as Asti spumante (or simply Asti). DOCG stands for "Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita," or "controlled and guaranteed designation of origin." It means the wine is made in a specific region according to specific quality regulations.

Regulations specify that both styles can only be produced in Italy's Piedmont region. The grapes thrive in sunny, dry days and cool nights and are harvested mid to late season depending on the variety and location.

There are a number of different varieties of moscato wine produced in Italy alone:

  • Moscato d'Asti: Lightly sparkling (frizzante), lightly sweet, low-alcohol white wine (about 5.5 percent)
  • Asti: Also known as Asti spumante; Sparkling white wine with about nine percent alcohol
  • Moscato di Pantelleria: Amber wine made on the island of Pantelleria; a dessert version made from dried grapes is called Passito.
  • Moscato Rosa: A sweet red wine from the Trentino-Alto Aldige region of Italy with flavors of berries and spice

American moscato wines can include:

  • White moscato: Similar to moscato d'Asti (still or sparkling)
  • Pink moscato: A white moscato with a little red wine mixed in
  • Red moscato: Similar to pink but with more red wine added
  • Sparkling moscato: Similar to Asti spumante

Food Pairings

The sweetness and low alcohol of moscato d'Asti and Asti make them especially perfect for pairing with spicy food. Try serving with dishes like Sichuan beef, Thai crab curry, or spicy Cajun-style chicken wings. Salty snacks like cured meats, nuts, or blue cheese are also a nice counterbalance to moscato's sweetness.

Instead of using moscato to balance a spicy or salty dish, you can also use it to accentuate a sweet one. The sweet white wine is delicious with apple desserts, meringue pies, hazelnut desserts, and brunch dishes like pancakes and coffee cake. If you're serving a light meal, moscato is often sweet enough to be dessert all on its own.

Use a white wine glass or even a tumbler when pouring moscato. Serve frizzante and sparkling moscato well chilled, still moscato at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and fortified dessert moscato at cellar temperature (60 to 70 degrees ). Fortified wines should be served in smaller portions, about three ounces.

Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips

Moscatos are typically easy to find in grocery stores, wine shops, and liquor stores as well as online. The moscato you'll find in the supermarket will often be bargain basement, mass-produced wines going for less than $10. It's worth seeking out higher-quality moscato for just a few dollars more. Look for options from Piedmont, Italy as well as Northern California. If you can't find moscato, look for another frizzante white wine or a sweet Riesling.

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