“Still over in Brazil, Sipping Moscato”
- Lil’ Kim
“Lobster and shrimp and a glass of Moscato”
A few weeks ago, one of my friends posted the following status update on Facebook: Mmmmmmmmoscato!
Simple. To the point. Accurate?
For me, it certainly is. It should come as no surprise that I enjoy a bottle of Moscato on occasion. And while I tend to focus on more “sophisticated” dessert wines when I’m in the mood for something sweet, there’s nothing quite like a glass of Moscato on a warm summer evening when you’re sitting outside with your friends after a particularly satisfying meal. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Rappers and hip-hop artists have fueled a huge spike in demand among US consumers for this unassuming, fairly sweet and lightly sparking libation from Italy. Moscato’s popularity is surging so strongly among Millennial consumers that world-famous Tuscan wine producer Ruffino, a subsidiary of Constellation Brands, Inc., has decided to make a move into the Moscato market. Ruffino’s own marketing research notes a 178 percent increase in volume of production during the 12-month period ending November 27, 2011, together with a sales increase of 89.5 percent over that same period. Its own offering will carry a retail price of $15 and should be available this month.
So what exactly makes Moscato so special and is it just a passing fad?
Moscato d’Asti is made from one of the oldest grape varieties known to man; Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. This variety is used to make many different wines in many different countries, but perhaps nowhere does it make such outstanding wines as in those vineyards surrounding the city of Asti in Piedmont. It is there Moscato is made into two of Italy’s most famous sparkling wines; Asti (formerly Asti Spumante) and the frizzante (“lightly sparkling”) Moscato d’Asti. Unlike the world’s most famous bubbly, Champagne, which undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, Asti’s sparklers are usually fermented in air-tight stainless steel tanks, which causes them to retain their bubbles.
Even though Moscato d’Asti has been produced for ages, one has to wonder whether this wine’s growing popularity is destined to fade. Megan Metcalf, editor of Wine & Spirits Daily, claims that “people who would have drunk White Zinfandel are now drinking Moscato.” The implication, of course, is that such people are novices who don’t have very discerning palettes and are just gravitating toward something familiar; a sweet, carbonated beverage. The converse implication is that people who have a discerning palette would rather be caught dead than drinking a glass of Moscato.
While I agree that Moscato is a great “gateway” into the wine world, I strongly disagree that a love of Moscato is something out of which people should be expected to grow. After all, unlike White Zinfandel, Moscato d’Asti is a DOCG level Italian white, inhabiting the same rank as much more renowned Italian wines like Barolo, Chianti and Amarone. Kris Chislett, a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine, recalls in a recent posting that Master Sommelier Virginia Philip has proudly proclaimed that Moscato is one of her favorite guilty pleasures.
Such high praise should not be taken lightly. MMMMMMoscato!
I was recently talked into buying a bottle of a Moscato d’Asti from a producer I’d never had or heard of before. I decided to pop it open so I’d have a tasting note to accompany this article. Here are my impressions:
- 2010 Campoferro Moscato d’Asti. Retail price around $12. Alcohol is 5.5%.
- I was unable to find any information about this producer on-line. I’m guessing they are fairly small and/or new. Production levels are unknown.
- This wine has a typical Moscato d’Asti appearance. The color is straw yellow and the bubbles are substantial in size but not in amount.
- On the nose, this wine smells a bit artificial. I get notes of green apple sucker and lime-flavored skittles. It’s missing those classic Moscato aromas of peach, apricot and citrus.
- The wine is pleasant to drink, but a bit one-dimensional. The sweetness seems to overpower the fruit. I’ve had better.
- Conclusion: if you can find it on sale, there’s nothing offensive about this wine, but I would look for something better if you want a good example of the heights to which Moscato d’Asti can rise.