Moscato wines are those that have been made using one of the usually highly aromatic Moscato grape varieties. The Moscato grape is famous for its sweet taste and fragrance. Like other aromatic varieties, the distinctive grape flavor is actually preserved in winemaking. “Moscato” is the name in Italian and Spanish. It’s Also called Muscat, muscatel, muscadel, or muscadelle.
A lot of inexpensive (but refreshing) wines are made from Moscato, but it has a very noble history and can produce exceptional wines, especially if you like sweeter wines.
Where Does Moscato Come From?
This family of grapes includes over 200 varieties. It’s a true European wine grape, a member of the Vitis vinifera species. Grape colors range from white to yellow, and pink to almost black. The Oxford Companion to Wine tells us that it is “one of the world’s great and historic names, of both grapes and wines.” Wineries will not always tell you which specific variety or subvariety (or varieties) were used in winemaking. There’s Muscat of Hamburg, of Alexandria, Blanc a Petits Grains, Ottonel, as well as Moscatels. All have very high concentrations of monoterpenes, which results in the pronounced fragrance. The ancient Greeks called it anathelicon moschaton and Pliny the Elder named it uva apiana, grape of the bees!
The Moscato Grape
It is a very thick and sweet berry. Depending on the fermentation process to which it is subjected, dry wines or sweet wines can be obtained. In Spain, tradition dictates that all of them will be fortified wines. The harvest of this grape is occurs early in the Mediterranean (and California), since continuous exposure to the sun makes it ripen earlier. The harvest is usually carried out in mid-August while that of other grapes is usually carried out in September, and even October. The Moscato vines are normally grown in warm, sunny locations.
As already mentioned, this grape is one of the oldest in the world; some reports say that this variety was cultivated in ancient Egypt and Persia, although its moment of greatest popularity was during the Classical Greece and the Roman Empire periods.
This variety reportedly has pronounced antioxidant properties, both in the skin, as well as the seed or the pulp, so it can protect the skin from harmful cells. It also has a high content of vitamin C.
Within the Moscatel grape there are different varieties depending on their characteristics and the place where they are grown. In Spain, for example, we can differentiate between the Muscatel from Chipiona or the one from Malaga, which are the best known, although they are also grown in Valencia, for example. Muscat from Chipiona does not undergo any fermentation process, so the resulting broth cannot be considered as wine, while those from Malaga do undergo this process and some of the resulting wines are protected under the D.O Sierras de Malaga. But if we talk about the Moscatel grape, the best known variety is the Muscat of Alexandria. Moscato is grown in abundance in southern France; dry styles are made in Alsace; and also, still, in Greece. California has its fair share. It’s an Italian wine as well: Moscato d’Asti, for example.
This name refers to the ancient city of Alexandria, so this variety may have its origins in ancient Egypt. Unlike Muscat de Grano Menudo (the most widely grown variety in Spain), Alexandria produces larger, more oval bunches. In addition to making wine, this grape, thanks to its tolerance to heat and drought, is also used as a table grape and raisin. In Chile, for example, this variety is used for its famous pisco.
The Characteristics of Muscat (Moscato) Wine
The resulting wines from this grape are dry to semi-sweet and almost always highly aromatic wines. It is also used on some occasions to make a so-called liqueur wine, also called mistela in some regions in Spain. This type of wine is made by adding alcohol of wine origin, with which a wine with an average percentage of 15º of alcohol is obtained.
Food to enjoy with Moscato Wine
The perfect pairing for this type of wine is pastries and sweet fruits owing to the great sweetness and aromatics of both that make for a perfect combination.
Two great Moscato wines that you can get when you buy wine online include
- 2018 Domaine Ostertag Fronholz Muscat from Alsace
- 2019 Botani Malaga Moscatel Old Vines from the Sierras of Malaga
Your wine store Sant Rosa also has more variety in Moscato wine.
- The 2020 Marchesi di Barolo Zagara Moscato d'Asti, for its Italian incarnation
- The 2021 Centorri Moscato di Pavia,
For an expression from a different terroir. There’s even the Capurro Pisco Moscatel to see how it is distilled!