Sweet Spot: Moscato
Wine is just like fashion, there are times when a trend seems to come out of nowhere and take the country by storm. One day you’ve never heard of a particular type or variety of wine; the next, it’s all the rage everywhere. People are talking about it, it’s served at parties, dinners, you name it! Today the current darling of the wine world: Moscato. In the past few years this fruity, light-bodied, perfumed wine made from none other than the Muscat grape has gained a huge crowd. A favorite among the younger generation known as the Millennials, and people who enjoy a sweeter style wine, in 2012 alone the sales of Moscato in the U.S. grew by nearly 70% and is still growing today.
Muscat is an ancient grape variety that has been planted in almost every wine region all over the world. It is primarily used to produce sweet wines, especially dessert wines. It has been mutated many times and forms a family of five main related varieties. The most common is “Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains” (white muscat with small berries) which is the main grape variety used in the production of the popular Italian sparkling wine Asti made in the Piedmonte region. It is also used in the production of many of the French fortified wines such as famous “Beaumes de Venise” from the Rhone Valley. Muscat of Alexandria is another Muscat variety found in Spain where it is used to make many of the fortified Spanish sweet Moscatels. Elsewhere it is used to make off-dry to sweet white wines, often labeled as Moscato in Australia, California and South Africa. In Alsace, Croatia & Serbia “Muscat Ottonel” is used to produce usually dry and highly perfumed wines.
Who knew there were so many different wines coming from the Muscat grape? Lets just stick to our homeland for now….
In the middle of the 20th century, the wines made from California’s Muscat grapes were primarily sweet: thick, syrupy and even a little bit Port-like. When sweet wines went out of style and other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay became popular, many Muscat vineyards were pulled out to make room for new plantings. But some farmers, primarily in the Central California growing region, continued to grow small amounts of the variety. With a warm-to-hot climate and relatively deep, fertile soils, these inland growing regions are known for high quality Muscat, a vigorous variety known for its relatively high yields. In fact, Muscat vines can set so much fruit particularly when they’re young, that the grapes can actually weigh the vines down to the point of breaking so they always have to be closely watched. Winemakers, who valued the grape for its intense, floral aromatics, used (and still use) Muscat as a “blender,” adding small amounts to both white and red wines to give them more pronounced flavor and character.
All Muscats share a characteristic powerful floral aroma profile with sweet notes. Dessert Muscats primarily from southern France, Rutherglen Australia or southern Spain have carmelized sugar or toffee aromas. While the light sparkling Asti of Northeastern Italy has a subtle sweet everessence. California Muscats are often considered off dry in terms of sweetness. They have a little bit of sweetness to them, but will never be too overpowering.
2012 Play Date Moscato
The fruit from this wine comes directly from the Coombsville AVA where the winery is located. The wine has also been stainless steel aged for 12 months.
Color: Pale gold
Aroma: Golden apple, honeysuckle, gooseberry
Flavor: honeydew melon, white blossom, jasmine
Sometimes everyone needs a little pick me up and Moscato does just that. Each winery is doing something a little different with the grape, giving consumers a range of styles to choose from. On a hot summer day, a cool, refreshing class of sparkling Moscato is as good as it gets.
Till next time oenophiles, cheers!
By, Shannon Hurley
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