I thought it was about time that I wrote about wines other than big, busty reds, and Moscato is probably the antithesis of the bone dry Bordeaux that I usualy drink.
Wine buffs often turn their noses up at the thought of Moscato, Asti and the like, but allegedly, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have analysed pots from King Midas's tomb, and found that the Moscato grape played a key part in the alcoholic beverages found there, so anyone who drinks this wine is in the company of Royalty (OK, dead, historic Royalty, but, hey, a King none the less!)
Stirctly speaking Moscato is a variety of the Muscat Grape, which is used for wine-making, raisins and for table grapes. It has a sweet flavour, low tannins and ranges in colour from white, through yellow, to almost black. it is grown throughout the world, and so the name changes slightly from region to region. The most common varieties are:
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Grapes for Wine
Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains, also know as Muscat Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Frontignan, Moscato Bianco, Sárgamuskotály and Yellow Muscat, to name just a few of its pseudonyms. This grape is largely used for Asti wines, and some dry whites.
Muscat Rose a Petit Grains and Muscat Rouge a Petit Grains, are both thought of as coloured versions of the above.
Moscatel Setubal and Moscatel de Favaios are usually served in Portugal.
There are another five or six varieties, which are drunk throughout the world and may be used for Sherry, table wines or liqueurs, but the top three here are probably the ones that most of us will come into contact with in our supermarkets and wine stores.
Muscat grapes are widely grown in Chile, in some areas of California, New York State and Italy. Folk in the UK will probably be most familiar with the Italian Moscato, such as Asti Spumante, and other Asti wines, typified by their 'grapey' sweetness and frizzante (fizzy) nature. They are often thought of as cheap, party wines, but good varieties are light, pleasant and fresh to drink (you know, if you pay only £2 a bottle, it's only ever going to taste like cheap party wine! If that's what you enjoy then that's cool - save the good stuff for me!).
Muscat grapes are also used to make sweet dessert wines, although most of these are fortified wines; a wine to which distilled liquor, usually brandy is added before the fermentation process. The brandy kills off the yeast before it can convert all the sugar to alcohol, thus leaving some behind and creating the sweet taste; Moscatel de Setubal, Portugal is an example of this, as is Muscat de Beaumes de Venise from France.
Not so long ago, I had a dessert wine with Cantucci biscuits (Biscotti) as a dessert, in a local restaurant It was an absolutely delicious combination (crunchy bIscuits, not too sweet, dipped in nectar - wonderful!) and I suspect that, had I seen the label it would have contained Moscato Bianco.
The Muscat grape is also used for making Metaxa Brandy in Greece. I absolutely adore Metaxa and could rant on about it for quite a while, so I guess that's another hub. Most people in the UK are very sniffy about Metaxa, seeing it as cheap holiday brandy, because they compare it to the French brandy. However, I enjoy it for it's own qualities.
Apparently the Muscat grapes, and hence their wines possess high concentrations of flavonoids, the little antioxidants that promote health. There are almost as many flavonoids in Muscat, as there are in red wine, so if you drink Moscato, you could argue that it is good for you.
So, come on all you Moscato drinkers, tell me about your favourite tipple.....I'm sure there's more than one of you out there???