Moscato in all of its forms is considered an aromatic grape variety, meaning it is heavily perfumed, offering exotic aromas like mandarin orange, jasmine, peach, pear, honey, and rose petal, as well as an unmistakable grapey quality. And, while it may be best known for the sweet vino frizzante and spumante from Italy, moscato wine is produced all over the world in a wide range of styles depending on the region and the type of muscat being used. Here are a few of the most noteworthy wines made from moscato… AKA muscat… AKA moscatel… AKA muskateller.
Moscato d’Asti DOCG and Asti DOCG are the best known styles of wine made from the moscato grape. These wines are made from 100% moscato bianco in the Asti region of Piedmont in Northwest Italy, using a technique known appropriately as the “Asti” method. In general, wine is made when the sugar in grapes is converted to alcohol. During the fermentation process, carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct. When the grapes for Moscato d’Asti are first fermenting, this carbon dioxide is allowed to release – as it usually is for the production of still wines (otherwise everything would be sparkling). However, part-way through fermentation, when the moscato is about 6% ABV, the tank is then sealed, forcing the carbon dioxide back into the wine, resulting in bubbles. Fermentation is also interrupted by chilling the juice, which results in some residual sugar and low alcohol. Fortunately, these wines also have a bright, mouth-watering freshness to balance out the sweetness.
Moscato d’Asti DOCG (semi-sparkling, or frizzante) and Asti DOCG (sparkling, or spumante) are generally sweet, light, and lively, with low alcohol, prominent aromatics, and juicy acidity.
Vietti Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy
Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti Nivole, Piedmont, Italy
Zonin Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy
Moscato isn’t just made in a sweet, sparkling style. It is also fermented to dry or near-dryness and produced without any effervescence. These wines can be wildly aromatic, with tropical fruit and floral notes that make it a natural pairing for exotic cuisines and spicy foods.
Still muscat is made all over the world, with noteworthy examples coming from Northern Italy, Austria, Germany, and the United States. In some ways, these wines are riding the coattails of the familiar sparkling, sweeter styles of Moscato, and gaining their own popularity as a result.
Imagery Estate Winery Muscat Canelli, Sonoma County, California
Bonterra Dry Muscat, Mendocino County, California
Manincor Moscato Giallo, Alto Adige, Italy
Leoness Cellars Muscat Canelli, Temecula Valley, California
Sweet and Fortified Dessert Wines
Muscat is widely used in the production of sweet and fortified wines, from California to Europe to Australia. In Jerez, the Spanish region in the Southern province of Andalusía known for the production of sherry, moscatel de Chiopiona, named after the town around which it grows, is made into a sweeter, more aromatic style of sherry. Similarly, in Portugal, moscatel galego branco (AKA muscat blanc à petits grains) is used in some unaged styles of aromatic white ports. In Southern Italy, muscat of Alexandria (known locally as zibibbo) is made into several sticky sweet dessert wines, including Passito di Pantelleria and Moscato di Lipari.
Vin Doux Naturel
In the South of France, muscat is used in the production of a highly celebrated style of sweet, fortified wines known as Vin Doux Naturel. For these wines, made primarily from muscat blanc à petits grains, a neutral grape spirit of about 95-96% ABV is added while the wine is fermenting, which stops the fermentation and, like Moscato d’Asti, leaves a percentage of residual sugar behind. From there, these wines can be released a few months after fermentation, or aged with a deliberate exposure to oxygen, resulting in a deeply amber-hued wine with rich, nutty, honeyed aromas.
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise in the Rhône Valley, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel, Muscat de Mireval, and Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois in the Languedoc, and Muscat de Rivesaltes in Roussillon are all regions in Southern France known for this style of sweet, fortified wine.