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A Beginner’s Guide to Moscato

A Beginner’s Guide to Moscato

franco salzillo arriaga |

It’s hard just to say, “this is the best Moscato wine in the world.” We’re talking about more than a wine grape; Moscato grapes are an entire family of varietals, all going back for at least 4,000 years ago. Yes, Moscato is more than a fruity, attractively sweet wine; it’s a legendary wine grape — Moscato is larger than life!

Here’s an in-depth beginner’s guide to Moscato. Is Moscato dry? Is Moscato red wine? What is Moscato, anyway? Here’s all you ever wanted to know about the attractive Mediterranean wine grape.

When it comes to Moscato, there’s plenty to say, from the most common types of Moscato grapes to the wines made from it. It comes without saying, Moscato is an international phenomenon, and the more you know about it, the more you fall in love with its sweet personality. Whether you are a connoisseur or a wine noob — there’s a Moscato wine for you. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Moscato?

Moscato, also referred to as Muscat, is an umbrella name for at least two hundred related grape varieties, all native to the Mediterranean Basin. The Ancient Greeks and Romans already knew and loved this exciting grape thousands of years ago, and its popularity has withstood the test of time.

Moscato grows beautifully around the Mediterranean, as it’s perfectly adapted to the region’s warm, temperate climate. You’ll find Moscato planted everywhere from Spain and France to Italy and Greece, and even in Northern Africa. Still, the grape has also found a home in non-European countries — it’s widely planted in the United States, Australia and South Africa.

Everyone loves Moscato grapes because they accumulate a large amount of sugar as they ripen; they’re amongst the sweetest wine grapes in the world! This, of course, often results in lusciously sweet or at least semi-sweet wines. 

So, why is Muscat so popular? For starters, sweet wines are easier to enjoy than dry ones, as we’ve all become used to sweet drinks. Those just getting started in the complex wine world find wines with residual sugar a gateway to more complex and sophisticated libations. 

Moscato is more than a wine grape; it’s a lifestyle! Millions of wine lovers enjoy wines made with Moscato worldwide, and the grape’s trendiness just keeps going. Let’s meet the most common Moscato grapes. 

The Most Popular Moscato Varieties

Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains

Also known as Moscato de Grano Menudo in Spain and Moscato Bianco in Italy, this varietal is perhaps the most renowned in the Moscato family. Thin-skinned and with noticeably small fruit, this varietal thrives in cooler Mediterranean climates, where it accumulates extraordinary amounts of sugar while developing an attractive, fruit-forward flavour profile. 

Muscat of Alexandria 

Sturdier and more resistant than Muscat Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria has thicker skin and prefers warmer coastal climates. Although not as aromatic as its better-known cousin, this varietal produces lovely wines, especially in warmer Spain and Portugal. Muscat of Alexandria has also found a home in the new world. 

Moscato Giallo

This very Italian Muscat grape is grown in the foothills of the Alps, primarily in the Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli regions. Moscato Giallo has a thick skin and acceptable sugar levels, this varietal, although not as prevalent as the ones above, has a growing fan base. 

Muscat Ottonel

This relatively new Muscat varietal was created in 1852 in France to create a more productive and resistant wine grape for the coldest of wine regions. Perhaps the least aromatic and sweet Muscat grape, Muscat Ottonel still has its uses, and it’s cherished in Alsace, Switzerland and Austria. 

Black Muscat

One of a few red-skinned Muscat grapes, Black Muscat, AKA Muscat of Hamburg, is not widespread, but several winemakers dedicate their vineyards to the rare varietal. Black Muscat shows that not all Muscat grapes are created equal, and this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Wines Made with Moscato

There are dozens of famous and not so renowned wine styles dedicated to Muscat grapes. Here are the most common — each a unique expression of the ancient wine grape. 

Asti and Moscato d’Asti. Perhaps the most famous Italian wine made with Muscat, these fizzy, semi-sweet wines are fruity and joyful. The wines made in Asti are one of the most celebrated in Piedmont. 

Muscat de Frontignan. This French vin doux naturel is a gem produced in Languedoc-Roussillon. The fortified wine preserves the grapes’ natural sugar, making it incredibly age worthy. 

Alsatian Muscat. Muscat is considered a noble varietal in Alsace, France, along with Riesling and others. Muscat produces some of the sweetest wines in the region, but they can also be quite dry compared to other Muscat wines on the market. 

Muscat de Rivesaltes. Both Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Muscat of Alexandria play a role in this famous wine style from Southern France. Muscat de Rivesaltes is often addictively sweet and honeyed, the wine ages very well too!

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. A specialty in the French Rhône Valley, this sweet, fortified Moscato is made with Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains and is another version of the country’s fortified vin deux naturel. 

Californian Moscato. Moscato is a best-seller in the United States, and most of it is grown in California. Moscato in California is not overly complicated, but it’s attractively sweet. This style is considered an entry-level wine style, and it’s crowd-pleasing delicious!

Vin de Constance. The Dutch established this South African wine region in 1685, and its most famous wine style was made with Muscat. The sweet wine soon became fashionable in the European courts, and although the style was lost in time for a while, dedicated producers brought it back recently, and it’s glorious. 

Rutherglen Muscat. Australian winemakers are no strangers to sweet, fortified wines, and some of the most impressive come from Rutherglen, Victoria. Here, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains becomes age-worthy, complex and sticky wines that you can enjoy decades and even centuries after they’re bottled. 

What Does Moscato Taste Like?

The Moscato family has hundreds of different grapes, but they all share a few flavours and aromas. All wine styles have scents reminiscent of fruit, from cherries to apples, but only wine made with Muscat actually smells and tastes like grapes. Together with peach, apricot, honey and floral scents, this grapey character is immediately appealing. With an often-sweet palate, wines made with Moscato are just easy to love. 

It comes without saying, not all Moscato wines are sweet — some are actually relatively dry, but their sweet aromas are always there. Sparkling Moscato is an entirely different experience altogether, and we can say the same about the robust fortified wines made with the family of grapes. 

Moscato wines are not easy to label — every grape grower and winemaker captures a distinct expression of the attractive grapes. Having said that, it’s safe to say Moscato wines are often somewhat sweet, fruit-forward, expressive and easy to drink. There’s no other grape on the planet with such a charming personality. Moscato is one of the most prominent grapes globally for a reason. 

How to Pair Moscato with Food

Pairing Moscato with food is easy, as long as you know the wine’s sweetness level and alcoholic strength. Sweetness counters spicy and hot flavours, making Moscato an attractive pairing for hot dishes, including Southeast Asian and Mexican specialties. 

Sweet wines like Moscato can also tame acidity in food, so they’re extraordinary with citrus-based dishes, from ceviche to fish and chips with a dash of vinegar. Sweetness and acidity counter each other, resulting in a beautiful experience.

Sweet wines also complement desserts as long as the wine is sweeter than the food. Fruit, pastries, tarts and other mildly sweet treats are lovely with a glass of Moscato in hand. Moscato is a dessert in its own right, by the way, especially when fortified and lusciously sweet. 

Yes, Moscato is also superb on its own — it’s the perfect wine to enjoy at pool parties and backyard get-togethers. Serve Muscat slightly chilled, close to fridge temperature and watch your guests fall for the traditional grape varietal. Moscato is as easy to serve as it is easy to enjoy. 

Moscato Wines to Try

Enjoy World Wine’s selection of Muscat and Moscato wines and discover the extraordinary range of wines made with the charming wine grape. 

Marcarini Moscato d’Asti, Italy

Woodstock Little Miss Collett Moscato, Australia

Torres Viña Esmeralda, Spain

Campbells Classic Rutherglen Muscat, Australia

Klein Constantia Vin De Constance, South Africa

Domaine De Coyeux Muscat De Beaume De Venise

Moscato Is Easy to Love

Moscato is more than a crowd-pleasing and ancient family of wine grapes, it’s also a blank canvas for creativity used by winemakers worldwide to craft beautiful wines. 

What is Moscato? You tell us! Wine experts and beginners, no one can say no to a golden glass of sweet Moscato; it’s so charming! Add a few bottles of Moscato to your cart and make it part of your weekly wine rotation. Few wine grapes are as generous and rewarding as the best Moscato.