Before Barefoot Made Moscato
Before Barefoot Made Moscato
Posted May 03, 2016
Before Barefoot made Moscato, before Barefoot even existed...and I mean long before, during a time when people had no option other than stomping their wine grapes, sweet dessert wines made this variety famous throughout the Mediterranean. Muscat-based dessert wines from Greece (most famously, from the island of Samos) are still made today and are definitely worth trying.
Muscat (known as Moscato in Italy and Moscatel in Spain and Portugal), is one of the world’s oldest wine grapes (to be technical, it is a family of closely related varieties) and one of the few you can describe as having “grapey” notes on the palate. With most other wines, you’d be laughed at. Not so with Muscat. A delicate perfumey (or “musky,” hence Muscat) nose leads to fresh grapey, melon and citrus notes on the palate. Muscat can be made in styles ranging from dry to off-dry to dessert, sparkling or still. The variety thrives throughout
the Mediterranean, from Portugal to Greece and has even made a home in northeastern France’s Alsace region. In each place, it offers a unique expression, though in all wines, it offers those beautiful notes of white flowers.
Asti, Piedmont, Italy
In Asti, located within the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, Muscat (known locally as Moscato) is made into slightly sweet, sparkling wines. Muscat has been grown here for hundreds and hundreds of years, with records dating back to the 1200s. Moscato D’Asti is delicate and fresh, perfect as an aperitif. Its delicate flavors pair well with milder cheeses, while the gentle bubbles do well with something creamy, cleansing the palate between bites. Whereas Moscato D’Asti is only frizzante, its counterpart Asti Spumante is fully sparkling.
Looking for a Mother's Day gift or a wine for brunch? Look no further. Moscato works beautifully with fresh fruit platters and soft cheeses. It would be darling to present mom with a glass of Moscato D'Asti alongside berries with mascarpone.
In Spain, Muscat (known locally as Moscatel) is commonly grown in coastal provinces, including Andalucia. Wine has been made here since at least 1100 BC, and Moscatel has been grown in the region's steep seaside vineyards for a very very long time. Andalucia, particularly the subregion Jerez, is well-known for sherry production. Moscatel, along with Pedro Ximenes, is one of the major varieties for Sherry. While Moscatel can be made in sweet, fortified styles, it can be fermented to dryness (the yeasts converted all the sugars to alcohol), still offering inviting floral notes.
The Outlier: Alsace, France
Muscat thrives in the Mediterranean. It buds early and needs a long growing season as buds could be injured or killed by late spring frosts. Yet, this variety has made a home in the cool, northern region of Alsace, near France’s border with Germany. Here, too, it makes glorious wines with fresh floral aromatics. In this cooler climate, the fruit is not quite as tropical, the floral aromatics are exquisitely delicate. The mouthfeel can be full and a bit waxy (in a good way), depending on the winemaker’s style. Sometimes, the wine will have a touch of sweetness, to give the wine a bit more body and to balance the cool-climate acidity.
Muscat’s sensitivity to late spring frosts make it a tenuous variety to grow in Alsace. I, for one, am happy that vignerons dare to grow it!
How do I drink it?
Step 1: Open the bottle.
Step 2: Pour into glass. (or directly into mouth if you are at home in your pajamas watching television with your cat).
Step 3: Sigh contentedly.
Seriously, what is the best way to enjoy Muscat-based wines?
Chill them. Not too cold. Your refrigerator is probably 40F or less (it should be, in any case). Your wine should be served at 45F (sparkling), 50F (still), or 60F (dessert). So somewhere between refrigerator and room temperature. For best results, take the wine out of the fridge about ½ to 1 hour before serving.
Try these wines with Chinese, Thai or other Asian cuisines. Muscats have body, a ginger-like spice and an impression of (or actual residual) sweetness to balance any hot spices. Try the Alsatian Muscats in lieu of Riesling with German foods.
Another great way to enjoy these wines is with cheese. Of course! For more strongly-flavored dessert wines, try creamy blue cheeses. For the more delicate wines, especially something like Moscato D’Asti, pair with creamy fresh ricotta.
Take a step back in time. Way back. Slow down. Enjoy. Don't forget to share a bottle with mom. Mother's Day is Sunday, May 8.
$12.99 per btl
$15.99 per btl