Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Muscat Love is Sweeping the Country

Sweet white wines are becoming all the rage in the U.S., especially when they are made with Muscat grapes.

Muscat History
Moscato (Italian for Muscat) derives from the Muscat family of vinifera grapes. It is one of the oldest winemaking grapes in the world, probably originating in Ancient Greece.  It is part of a family of grapes with over 200 varieties including Muscat Blanc a’ Petits Grains, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Ottonel and Black Muscat.  The grapes colors range from white to nearly black.

Muscat Blanc a’ Petits Grains is considered the most dignified of the Muscat grapes and one of the oldest grape varieties to still exist.  This white grape is also called Muscat de Frontignan, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, and Muscat Canelli, and Yellow Muscat. In France it is used as a blending grape.  In Italy, it is the oldest known variety of grape grown in the Piedmont region and is used in the sparkling Asti Spumante wines. This is the most popular of the Muscat grapes.

The Muscat of Alexandria grape originated in Egypt and is one of the oldest genetically unmodified vines to still exist. Legend has it that Cleopatra drank Muscat wine. This white grape is also called Moscatel, Muscat Gordo Blanco and Lexia.  It is used mainly to make sherry or muscatel wine in Australia and South Africa. Muscat of Alexandria is the second most popular of the Muscat grapes and is also sold as white raisins and table grape.  This wine is very sweet with an earthy taste.

Muscat Ottonel is another white wine grape first cultivated in Alsace in 1852.  This grape is crafted mainly into dessert wines in Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croati, and made into a dry wine in Slovakia, Hungary and Alsace.

Black Muscat is also called Golden Muscat, Muscat Hamburg and Moscato di Amburgo.  In the U.S. and Eastern Europe it use it for table wine or sparkling wine.  It may also be used as a blending grape for dessert wines. In Italy, France and Australia it is served as a table grape.  The juice is very aromatic and produces a red wine.

As you can see, the Muscat grape family is versatile and can be used to craft sparking wines, Sherry, dry whites, late harvest dessert wines, ice wines and Brandy.  It is also mixed with vodka to create unique bar drinks.

The Rise of Moscato
According to A.C. Nielsen, the sales of Moscato wines have grown over 80% in the United States within the past year. Muscat wines are now the fastest growing wines in the country, nudging Sauvignon Blanc out as the third most popular wine in the U.S. (Pinot Grigio is second, with Chardonnay coming in first.)

But times were not always so sweet for Moscato.  During the 1980’s and 90’s, Muscat grapes were not popular.  People still associated the name Muscat with Muscatel, a generic term for many sweet, cheap wines produced in California until the 1960’s.   By borrowing the Italian name Moscato for those wines made from Muscat grapes, a new wine favorite has appeared.  Experts predict Moscato has the capability of becoming as popular with wine drinkers as White Zinfandel once was. In fact, White Zin lovers are now seeking out Moscatos as their ‘go-to’ wine.

Today’s Moscato drinkers are mainly under the age of 45, with millennials' (those born during the eighties to mid-nineties) as the key purchasers of this type of wine.  Many site having been influenced by its mention in Hip-hop songs and videos as one of the reasons they’ve tried it. And this group does not relegate Muscat wine just for dessert.  They pair it with all types of food and enjoy it throughout the meal.

Gallo’s Barefoot wines introduced its Moscato in 2008.  It is now the number one brand of Moscato in the U.S., followed by Sutter Home, and Yellow Tail, taking the third position in popularity. If you’re looking to try a red Moscato, check out Beringer.  All are sweet, low alcohol and usually priced around $10, perfect for the new wine lover.

Wine Profile
So what should you expect from a Moscato wine?

• A floral, fruity or musky aroma.
• Low alcohol levels, usually 7 to 9%.  (Think wine coolers.)
• Flavors of apple, fruit, or spice.
• The color of the wine can vary from light yellow to dark amber, to red, depending on the grape used.
• This wine is best served chilled.
• Most sweet Moscatos usually sell around $10 to $15.
For food pairing ideas consider serving with a berry fruit tart, apple pie, gingerbread, milk chocolate, or Gorgonzola cheese.

This is the perfect wine for those new to wine or the wine drinker who is searching for a lighter, sweeter wine.  And Moscato is excellent as a cool summer sipping wine.

Muscat or Moscato – Regardless of how you pronounce it, this is one wine trend that will continue to make headlines around the world!  So -


~ Joy