It seems that the Millenial Generation has discovered Moscato. This lightly sweet and often low-alcohol wine is easy to drink, especially for those Millenials (age 21+) who grew up drinking sweet sodas. It seems that Moscato, oftentimes lightly sparkling, is replacing White Zinfandel (and before that Lancer’s Rosé) as the young adult’s first wine experience. Below we provide reviews of several fresh, low alcohol Muscat wines tasted for our Report # 27: Sweet Wines of the World.
Moscato sales are skyrocketing, more than tripling between 2008 and 2010 alone. Since the demand for grapes reflects that of wine, the prices of Muscat grapes are similarly increasing, from about $150/ton a few years ago to $400+ today. All of which means that growers are beginning to plant more Muscat and graft existing vineyards over to the grape.
Muscat is one the oldest and most popular grapes with hundreds of varieties and even more names. It makes wines ranging from the lightly sweet frizzante Asti to the fortified, dark mahogany Ambré Rivesaltes. It is also the basis for Peruvian Pisco and Greek Metaxa. In the US, the California winery Quady specializes in making wines from lesser known Muscat varietals.
The two most popular varieties—Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains (pictured here, and also called Moscato Bianco and Muscat de Frontignan) and Muscat of Alexandria—provide the fruit for most wines. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is the most noble of the Muscat varieties and is the basis for Moscato d’Asti, Vin Doux Naturel (Lunel, Beaumes-de-Venise, Frontignan) in southern France, Vin de Constance in South Africa, Gelber Muskateller in Austria, and the fortified Muscats of Australia.
Muscat of Alexandria doesn’t have the complexity and depth of the Petits Grains, but it can also make delicious sweet wines, especially in Spain and Portugal. It is the grape of Portugal’s Moscatel de Setúbal. It is usually blended with Blanc à Petits Grains in making Muscat de Rivesaltes. In South Africa, it’s called Hanepoot and is used to make the fortified Jerepigo. It is the most widely grown Muscat in Spain.
Muscat Ottonel is the palest of the Muscats and produces delicate wines in cool climates. It’s especially popular in Alsace and is the basis for late harvest wines in the Neusiedlersee of Austria.
Black Muscat (Muscat Hamburg) is mostly a table grape but also can make dessert wines (e.g., Quady’s Elysium). Orange Muscat (Fior d’Arnacio) is grown in the Veneto region of Italy and the west coast of the US. Quady’s Esencia is made with Orange Muscat, which has aromas of orange flowers and flavors of orange and apricot.
Tasting Notes and Ratings
Barboursville Vineyards Philéo Monticello ($16) 88
This low-alcohol blend of Moscatel Ottonel and Traminer Aromático is easy drinking, the perfect wine for Sunday brunch. It has a perfumed nose of rose petal, tangerine skin, and lychee. Viscous and syrup like on the attack, the palate is clean and tasting of fresh, ripe pear. Nothing complicated here but quite delicious. Alc 10%, RS 80 g/l.
Marenco 2009 Scrapona Moscato D’Asti ($17) 88
The Scrapona Moscato d’Asti is a delicious, overtly fruit and moderately sweet, effervescent wine. It shows light pear, lychee, and rose petal on an extravagantly perfumed nose and nicely balanced palate. Nothing complicated here, just a lightly sparkling, fresh-fruited pleasure. Alc. 5.5%. Importer: VIAS New York, NY
Neirano 2010 Pitulé Moscato d’Asti ($13) 87
This Moscato d’Asti offers neutral aromas and a quite sweet, lightly effervescent attack. Notes of rose petal and pear show on the palate, finishing on a sweet note. Alc 7%. Importer: Scoperta, Cleveland Heights, OH
Quady 2009 Electra Orange Muscat Madera ($14) 87
This is a low-alcohol wine with substantial sugar, a bit of effervescence and grapey-muscat and dried orange aromas and flavors. It’s made from the Orange Muscat grape. Should be served very well chilled or over ice. Alc 4.5%.
Quady 2008 Elysium Black Muscat California ($25/750ml) 88
Elysium is made from the Muscat Hamburg grape, also sometimes called Brown Muscat. The wine is ripe with powerful aromas of dried fig and dark cherry and flavors of red berry jam. Very good.
Quady 2008 Essensia Orange Muscat California ($25/750ml) 89
Made from Orange Muscat, this is a sweet, fortified wine aged about 3 months in French oak. Beautiful golden orange in color, the wine is delicious, offering aromas and flavors of apricot and lychee with orange zest notes. Should be served well-chilled.
Santo Cristo Ainzón Moscatel Campo de Borja ($12) 88
The gold straw Ainzón Moscatel has fresh aromas of rose petals and white peach. The palate is like a liquid essence of roses with ginger notes. Somewhat sweet and cloying on the finish. Fermented in stainless steel and aged 90 days in barrel. Alc 15%. Importer: Quality Wines of Spain New York, NY