Hot and Refreshing

Moscato is hot these days. It’s in songs, on supermarket shelves and sold in magnum-size bottles by big names like Yellowtail and Gallo (aka Barefoot). Sales of Moscato have increased more than 70 percent each of the past two years, while total wine sales have increased about 5 percent. I guess it’s time for me to jump on the bandwagon, even though I have loved and promoted the traditional Moscato d’Asti as a refreshing beach beverage for years.

One of the great barriers to enjoying wine is fear of the unknown. There are many contributing factors, primarily confusion and lack of knowledge.

Moscato is the Italian name for the Muscat grape, found in many of Italy’s wine regions and various other countries, including France and Hungary. As with all wine grape varieties, it is used in numerous styles of wine, making things all the more confusing. The style getting all the buzz in rap songs and package stores is the slightly sweet, slightly sparkling wine that has historically been produced in the Northern Italian region of Asti. The Moscato d’Asti region is a DOCG, Italy’s top designation for her wine regions. It is an aromatic grape used in many excellent styles of wine, including Baumes de Venise in the Rhône Valley of France and Hungary’s Tokaji region, widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest sweet wines. But anyone seeking a wine for the beach on a warm day would be very unhappy with either of those dessert wines, or any other very sweet wine with Muscat. Great Tokaji is a blend of Muskotály (another name for Moscato), Furmint and Hárslevelü. It is one of my favorite dessert wines, but as with all things in life, “right time, right place” is paramount.

Moscato d’Asti is produced to have a slight sweetness that is braced and balanced by gentle effervescence and crisp, clean acidity with low alcohol (between 5 and 7 percent). The relatively low alcohol level of this type of wine works great on a warm summer day or in a hot pulsating club.

This style of wine is produced by stopping the fermentation of the grapes at a lower alcohol level, leaving the juice with some residual sugar. A second fermentation creates the bubbles, and the combination of this process and the natural fruity aromatics of the Muscat/Moscato grape results in the perfect refreshing wine. Try it on a warm summer afternoon or with some spicy foods that are sometimes difficult to pair with wine. For those who need a pink version, try Asti’s neighboring region of Brachetto d’Acqui, a really interesting sparkling wine made with the indigenous Brachetto grape.

Beach Friendly Dessert Wines Worth The Taste

2011 G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti $13 for .375 ml bottle
2011 la Spinetta Bricco Quaglia $13 for .375 ml bottle
2011 Bricco del Sole $14 for .375 ml bottle
2010 Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui “Pineto” $20 for .750 ml bottle
2007 Royal Tokaji Co. Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos $45 for .500 ml bottle