Our Moscato is one of our best-selling wines, but it can be a misunderstood grape/wine. I thought it would be good to shine a light on the wine. Here’s almost everything that you need to know about Moscato.
It is an old grape
There are different beliefs about the origin of Moscato. Written records mention it as early as 1230. Robinson says that the consensus is that it came from Greece originally. Others argue for Italian origin. Many believe that Muscat is actually the oldest grape variety in the world & that all other grapes derived from it (http://www.appellationamerica.com/grape-varietal/Muscat-Canelli.html, https://www.muscat-wines.com/, https://www.uncork.biz/tidbits19.aspx) Pliny the Elder described a sweet wine made with grape that were attractive to bees that he called Anathelicon Moschaton.
Even if it isn’t the 1st grape, it has a lot of children
There are more than 200 different varieties descended from Moscato today. Orange Muscat & Muscat of Alexandria are the most common to see on shelves.
It is a grape with many names
Moscato Bianco is the primary Italian name for the grape. In France it is called Muscat blanc à Petits Grains or just Muscat Blanc. In Greece is it known as Moshato Samou. Australia & South Africa call it Frontignac. In Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes book she lists 65 different names for the grape. In Italy different regions might have their name appended to the grape. Moscato d’Asti is one of the more famous. There is a small region in Asti called Canelli. The name Moscato di Canelli was corrupted in America & the grape ended up being called Muscat Cannelli. That’s still a common name for it on U.S. wine labels.
Color varies with location & stage of growth
Moscato is considered a white grape. It starts out green & ripens to a golden color. Some Muscat turns reddish in color when it is very ripe.
There’s a reason it smells so beautifully floral
The Moscato grape produces a number of monoterpenes including one called Linalool. Linalool naturally occurs in a many spices & flowers including cinnamon, mint, & citrus fruits. Linalool is used as a scent in roughly 75% of perfumed shampoos, soaps, & lotions.
It tastes great off the vine
Moscato is one of the only wines that tastes the same as the grape. The honeysuckle, peach, honey, & apricot flavors in the wine come through when you eat the ripe grapes. It is my favorite grape to eat. You just have to remember to spit out the seeds!
Moscato can be used in liquor as well
In Peru, Pisco is exclusively made with Muscat grapes & in Chile Muscat is one of the primary grapes. In Greece the popular brandy Metaxa is made with Muscat.
Not all Moscato based wines taste the same
Some ferment the wine completely dry & get a perfumed dry wine with between 13-14.5% alcohol. Others leave the grapes on the vine longer & get a rich sweet late harvest wine. Moscato d’Asti is light, sweet, & bubbly. It tends to have low alcohol, between 5.5-8%. In France you can sometimes find Clairette de Die, which is a dry sparkling Muscat Blanc.
In Southern France there are Muscat de Beaumes de Venise AOC & Muscat de Rivesaltes. These are made by taking very ripe muscat grapes & adding 95% alcohol (usually made from distilled grapes). The result is a super sweet wine that can be aged for decades. This is also common in Australia, particularly Rutherglen. The wines are often aged in oak for years. These wines taste of raisins, figs, & toffee, but they still have some of that distinctive Moscato smell.
Twisted Cedar Moscato is fermented to 11.5% alcohol. We feel like this hits the perfect spot between dry & sweet. The honeysuckle, orange blossom, apricot and peach notes taste sweet on the palate, but there is enough crisp acidity to clean the palate. There is a hint of effervescence which also keeps the wine from tasting too sweet or cloying.
Pairing Moscato with food. It isn’t just for dessert!
I often see Moscato on the dessert menu. Moscato does taste great with lighter dessert items. It can be wonderful with vanilla cakes, crème brûlée, or cookies. The wine is more versatile than that though. Since there is some sweetness to our Moscato, it generally pairs well with food that has an opposing flavor profile. That means it goes well with foods that are spicy, salty, sour, or bitter. Depending on the menu, Moscato can find a spot at any point in the meal. Here are some suggestions, but of course you should come up with what works best for you.
The French chill sweet Muscat to serve as an apéritif & might pair it with pâté de foie gras. There are also several pre-dinner cocktails & spritzers that use Moscato as an ingredient. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian serves a white sangria made with Twisted Cedar Moscato. It features Twisted Cedar Moscato, Absolut Citron, & Grand Marnier. I will try to get the complete recipe & add it here.
Moscato is perfect for a cheese & cured meat plate. The sweetness is a nice counterpoint to the saltiness of Prosciutto or Jamón Ibérico or other cured meats. It also works well with blue cheeses & soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
The same concept of salt & sweet makes Moscato a great pairing with salty nuts.
Moscato can be an excellent accompaniment to spicy foods. One of my favorite pairings at a wine dinner with Twisted Cedar Moscato was an appetizer with stuffed jalapenos. The sweetness really cooled off the spicy jalapenos. Try Moscato with the spiciest chicken wings & you might fall in love with it. The spicy notes & fruitiness in Moscato work well with some exotic spices. Thai food & Indian curries really seem to pair with Moscato when the main protein is fish, chicken, or tofu.
Aside from the desserts I mentioned above, Moscato goes well with fruit-based desserts (or just fruit). Pair Moscato with Strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries & whipped cream & it will be delicious.
Finally, think about ditching Prosecco at your next brunch. Moscato makes a nice peach or strawberry Bellini. Better yet, top your waffles or pancakes with fresh fruit & whipped cream & drink your Moscato straight. That’s a great way to start your weekend or to make any day seem like a vacation.
Any other questions or ideas?