For those too young to remember, white zinfandel was the go-to drink for wine newbies in the ’90s. Moscato is now the first choice for a new generation of wine drinkers.
According to the Nielsen folks, in 2012 moscato had the largest consumption percentage increase of any varietal, with a gain of 33 percent. Moscato now accounts for 6 percent of all U.S. wine sales.
Chardonnay remains the most popular varietal, followed by cabernet, merlot and pinot gris. And rounding out the top five is moscato. When consumption statistics are released for 2013, likely moscato consumption will surpass pinot gris and possibly even merlot.
Virtually every major wine label has added moscato to their portfolio. Moscato comes in all shapes, sizes and hues. Tyson Fine Wine and Things in Golden Springs even has the stuff in cans. Moscato is so popular it now has its own website — www.moscatonation.com.
NeNe Leakes of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” loves it so much she has her own brand called Miss Moscato. It’s of the sparkling variety and is specially made for NeNe in Italy.
Moscato is enjoying such an unprecedented wave of popularity in America that domestic producers are finding it difficult to keep up with demand. But moscato has been around for a long time.
Moscato is the Italian name for the grape varietal muscat cultivated in Italy for centuries. Ampelographers, those who identify and classify grape varietals, think there may be hundreds of genetic variations with as many color variations, ranging from brown to light green.
Known for its heady aroma, ripening moscato will definitely assault one’s senses. Unfortunately, it also attracts bees and flies. In fact, Roman philosopher and naturalist Pliny the Elder called this grape “uva apiana” — grape of the bees.
One variant, Muscat of Alexandria, is thought to have originated in ancient Egypt. Today muscat is grown in most grape-growing regions of the world, but is especially prevalent across all of Italy, where muscat blanc is the principal grape in the sparkling wines Asti Spumante and moscato d’ Asti.
The Australians are known for making muscat into sweet dessert wines called “stickies.” The Alsace region of France produces dry aromatic muscats, but the muscat-based wines now trending in America are the light, sweet, aromatic fizzy type.
Some of the varietal’s notoriety may be attributed to the mention of moscato in lyrics by Kanye West, Drake and Lil’ Kim, but the mass appeal of this wine lies in its approachability. These sweet, aromatic, low-alcohol, easy-drinking wines are attractive not only to the young, but also to older generations who desire lighter-quaffing wines.
There is such a dizzying array of moscato in all price ranges available on local wine and grocery store shelves, it is difficult to make recommendations. I like Saracco from Italy available at both Tyson’s and the Wine Cellar on Quintard. In the $16 range at both locations, this wine was a local favorite long before the current moscato revolution. Also available at both locations, in the $11 range, is Dulcis from Italy. I like these two wines for an aperitif or with dessert.
For a slightly drier version, try Foris from Oregon, $12.75 at Tyson’s.
Email Pat Kettles at email@example.com