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Issue: February 2012
Muscat Love


MOVE OVER, WINE SNOBBERY—CONSUMERS WANT SWEET!

Muscat, the sweet grape once used mostly for raisins and table grapes, is one of the hottest wine grapes in the world right now. Often referred to by its Italian name, Moscato, this white wine increased 156.3 percent in volume during 2010, according to A. C. Nielson Data.

With its honey, peach and other variations of sweet flavors, the typical Moscato is drawing young and curious new wine drinkers. But Moscato’s versatility might be what is really driving this trend, says Lou Capitao, Managing Partner of Touchstone Wines, importer of Ricossa wines from Italy’s Piedmont region.

Capitao says this trend challenges the stereotype that Moscato is just an after-dinner drink. “People shy away from the after-dinner drinks,” Capitao says. “[Consumers] have a couple glasses of wine, and the last thing they want to do is to have even more alcohol.”



[ yellow tail ] NV Moscato, South Eastern Australia ($10)
The back label tag line—“Lil Sweet. Lil Fizzy.”—is a near-perfect description for the average consumer. Delicate bubbles surface as the wine is poured, and its light yellow color glows. [ yellow tail ]—the brackets are part of the official name—is the number-one Australian brand in the U.S. and the number-one imported on-premise brand; it sells more than 12 million cases a year in more than 40 countries. The newly introduced Moscato brings a nose of honey, pear, almond extract and peach with a palate of the same notes and hints of mango, orange, vanilla, persimmon and caramel apple. For the right customer, [ yellow tail ] will pair nicely with fish or with sweets containing almonds or peaches. 7.5% alcohol.
W. J. DEUTSCH & SONS


The recession has helped Moscato, too, he says. “It’s cheaper than Cristal. It still has bubbles and it’s sweet. All of a sudden Moscato became an option for price-conscious consumers. It wasn’t just the lower social classes feeling this recession; everybody’s looking for value, even at the very top end.”
Now, hundreds of winemakers from South Africa to California are planting the once-ignored grape.

While some can be too sweet (almost like drinking honey) and some are not sweet enough (too dry to be truly representative of the grape), we’ve found some versions that hit a happy medium.  Sorted by place of origin, here’s a cross section of some of the best Moscatos on the market.



FRANCE

Hugel 2009 Muscat, Alsace ($24) Light straw color with hints of pale green. This wine follows the pattern of Alsatian wines and is completely different from most other Muscats—balanced between dry and sweet with notes of apple, peach, banana and hints of petrol and anise. Clean finish. 12% alcohol.
FREDERICK WILDMAN & SONS

CALIFORNIA

Crane Lake 2010 Moscato, California ($6) A unique Moscato nose with hints of pine nuts, petrol, apple and honeysuckle. The sweetness gives notes of honey and green apple, but it is well-balanced and finishes with a hint of oak.
BRONCO WINE CO.

Coastal Ridge 2010 Moscato ($7) Explosion of honey and tropical fruits on the nose. It’s sweet and juicy, perfectly balanced. 10% alcohol.
BRONCO WINE CO.

Robert Hall 2010 Orange Muscat, Margaret’s Vineyard, Paso Robles ($15) With color closer to a Chardonnay, this Muscat hits the nose with floral, green apple, honey, pear, peach and vanilla, followed by sweet notes of strawberries, banana, mango and brown sugar. Very lovely finish with a hint of oak. 12.5% alcohol.
DOMAINE NAPA WINE COMPAN

SOUTH AFRICA

Two Oceans 2011 Moscato ($10) Actually a blend of Muscat, Chenin Blanc and Colombard, this crisp white wine is low in alcohol, but still delivers floral and fruit in the bouquet with a fresh and fruity taste with a sweet finish. 7.5% alcohol.
AVENÍU BRANDS


ITALY

Pellegrino 2009 Moscato di Pantelleria ($30) Dark yellow in color. Nose of oak and toasted almond with caramel. Expresses itself with lovely sweet notes of apples, peaches, apricots, caramel, vanilla, butter and candied apple. 15% alcohol.
FREDERICK WILDMAN & SONS

Terramia 2010 Moscato, Sicilia IGT ($7)  Beautiful yellow color. Very balanced and will appeal to the traditional wine lover who does not care for sweeter wines. While this has the honey notes, its dryness is not found in many Moscatos. It delivers a nice almond and honeysuckle finish. 12.5% alcohol.
VINUM INTERNATIONAL/BRONCO WINE CO.

Folonari 2010 Moscato, Provincia di Pavia IGT, Italy ($14) Nice straw color with sparkles. Juicy, sweet, well-rounded tannins. 9.5% alcohol.
FREDERICK WILDMAN & SONS

Riunite NV Movendo Moscato, Puglia, Italy ($9) Lovely nose with hints of toffee, peach and honey. Delicate bubbles help deliver an explosion of sweet honey notes. 8% alcohol.
BANFI VINTNERS


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