Is Moscato A Dessert Wine?

While it originates from the warm mediterranean climate of Italy, moscato wine – which is derived from muscat grapes – is today produced in regions all over the world, from France to Australia. 

Moscato is a sophisticated, lightly sparkling wine which has sweet hints of peaches, honeysuckle, rose water, and orange blossom and a low alcohol content compared with other wines.

This type of wine often has a lower acidity and a higher level of residual sugar which makes it sweeter in flavor. 

About Moscato 

The most popular variety of moscato is Moscato d’Asti which is commonly known as ‘frizzante’ in Italy. It comes from a region called Asti, in the Piedmont area in North Western Italy.

This wine is made from Moscato Bianco, the family of white muscat grapes which includes muscat blanc, Alexandria, and blanc à petits grains, which have been cultivated for hundreds of years. 

Moscato d’Asti as well as Asti spumante (or simply Asti) is DOCG-certified, which means the wine is made in a specific region according to specific quality regulations. 

DOCG stands for “Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita,” or “controlled and guaranteed designation of origin.” 

Both of these Moscato variations can only be produced in Italy’s Piedmont region, where the Muscat grapes are able to thrive in the dry, sunny days and cool nights. They’re then harvested mid to late season depending on the grape variety and location.

Moscato Varieties 

Moscato d’Asti is the main variation of Moscato, and is a lightly sparkling, slightly sweet white wine with a low-alcohol content. It’s known as “frizzante.” 

Asti is another popular variety, and is usually known as “Asti Spumante.” It’s similar to Moscato d’Asti but has a higher alcohol content of around 9%. 

Moscato di Pantelleria is an amber wine made on the island of Pantelleria, and there’s also a dessert version called “Passito”  which is derived from dried grapes.

Moscato Rosa is a  sweet red variety from the Trentino-Alto Aldige region of Italy, and has flavors of berries and warm spice. 

American moscato wines can include white moscato which is similar to Moscato d’Asti, pink Moscato which is a rose version, red moscato, or sparkling moscato, which is similar to Asti Spumante. 

Most Moscato wines are white, and these are low in tannins and can have varying levels of sweetness, acidity and bubbles.

However,  there are also red wine grapes in the muscat family as well as black muscat which can be used to make the less common red moscato which is rich with berry and floral notes. 

Moscato flavors 

Moscato, and the most common variety Moscato d’Asti, is known for its perfume-like fragrance and dazzling fruit-forward profile which has a sweet finish.

Moscato’s most prominent aromatics include orange blossom, honeysuckle, almonds, and ginger, with flavors of bright fruit like green grapes, citrus, and ripe peach. 

It has a light body and gentle sparkle which makes it a refreshing choice for brunch, dessert, or unwinding on a hot summer’s day. 

A perfect dessert wine? 

Moscato usually has a lower alcohol percentage (in the region of 5-6%), and along with its lighter body, this makes it a perfect accompaniment for sweet dishes and desserts. The sweet, slightly sparkling white wine pairs perfectly with apple or hazelnut desserts, meringue, and even brunch dishes like pancakes and coffee cake. Moscato is often sweet enough to be a dessert all on its own. 

However, Moscato is not always drunk as a dessert wine. The sweetness and low alcohol content of Moscato d’Asti make it pair well with spicy food, as the sweetness will balance out the heat.

It goes well with dishes such as Sichuan beef, Thai crab curry, or spicy Cajun-style chicken wings, as well as salty snacks like cured meats, nuts, or blue cheese. 

Thanks to their sweet and fruity profile, Moscato wines are also a common base for sangria. They perfectly complement oranges, peaches, and berries while providing a hint of sweetness. Pink Moscato or Red Moscato is often used in Sangria,  in order to achieve that perfect color.

Is Moscato or Pink Moscato sweeter?

Pink Moscato is made with Merlot, so it’s generally less sweet than its traditional counterpart, which is made solely with sweet muscat grapes.

Pink Moscato is perfect for people who want that bright citrus kick with a little less sweetness. Depending on the amount of Merlot added, Pink Moscato is also great in various summer cocktails. 

Is Moscato suitable for cooking?

Moscato is actually a very good wine for cooking. It’s perfect for adding a hint of sweetness to a savory dish or can be used to spice up a dessert. 

What wines are similar to Moscato?

Pinot Grigio is a good dry alternative to Moscato, but it still offers those bright citrus notes. If you prefer a frizzy alternative, Prosecco will provide aromatic flavors of peach and also has a sweetness associated with Moscato wines.

Many sweet sparkling wines will share similar attributes to Moscato, so you shouldn’t have to look too far to find an alternative. 

Final Verdict 

Moscato is a fruity, slightly sparkling wine that is the perfect sweet treat – either alongside your dessert or by itself. That said, this fruit-forward wine can also pair perfectly with a spicy meal, as the sweetness can balance out the harshness of the spices. 

Moscato also comes in red and rose varieties, which will provide a less sweet alternative to the traditional Moscato d’Asti. 

However, while this wine will be commonly associated with dessert, it’s not only for after dinner. Enjoy Moscato with your meal, at brunch, lunchtime, or simply enjoy it by itself as a refreshing drink on a hot summer’s day. 

Christina Day
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