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Wine

Moscato

Lower in alcohol than other varieties and with fruit-sweet, appealing notes that make it especially fresh and approachable, Moscato is always a welcome guest at the table. Join us as we explore its origins, leading Australian Moscato regions and producers, and what foods go best with Moscato in this varietal deep dive!

 

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ORIGINS OF MOSCATO

For many new wine lovers, Moscato {mos-kah-toe} is the ultimate ‘entry’ wine. Made from one of the world’s oldest-known grapes, it’s available in countless styles and is a very affordable, food-friendly drop. Before we delve into what qualities to look for in a Moscato, it is worthwhile learning a bit about the heart of Moscato – the humble Muscat grape.

That’s right, the same grape that makes many Fortified wines! The name Muscat is believed to been derived from the Latin muscus, and relates to the perfumed aroma of musk (originally sourced from the male musk deer). One interesting fact is Muscat is one of the only grapes whose aroma on the vine matches that in the glass.

It is thought that the Muscat grape originated in Greece or the Middle East – possibly even Ancient Egypt – and was transported to Italy and France during Roman times, eventually making its way all over the world. Traditionally, the home of Moscato is in Asti in Italy’s Piedmont region, where it has been made since the early 13th century. This makes it quite possibly the most-ancient grape variety in continual common use.

Accordingly, with so much history and being so widely dispersed, the Muscat grape has undergone many mutations and these days there are over 200 different varieties, which is an amazing amount – exponentially more than any other grape varietal.

 

MOSCATO IN AUSTRALIA

Moscato first came to Australia as part of Busby’s collection in 1832, but it has been noted that other cuttings have since come from other sources, including Italy and South Africa.

Unlike in Piedmont, which has strict regulations governing the Muscat variety allowed for the production of Asti Spumante – namely, Moscato Bianco – Australian producers have had a much broader palette to choose from for making their Moscato, with many opting for Brown Muscat, Muscat of Alexandria (Gordo Blanco) or Muscat Giallo.

In 2016, industry body Wine Australia laid out regulations specifying the 13 different Muscat varieties that may be used for its production. Moscato must be made from at least 85 per cent of varieties within the Muscat family and if a claim is made of a specific Muscat variety – for example Moscato Giallo – then the wine must contain at least 85 per cent Moscato Giallo.

Rollo Crittenden reveals that they use a blend of three varietals for their Moscato. “It is predominantly Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Bianco, but there is a dash of Gewürztraminer (about 10%) which gives the wine added lift and aromatics,” Rollo says. “We are certainly very proud of it and feel that it closely resembles a true Moscato from the Asti region in Italy.”

Gary Reed, chief winemaker at Petersons in the Hunter Valley, reveals they source the grapes for their Moscato from the Granite Belt. “We tend to use the Muscatel (Muscat of Alexandria) grape,” says Gary. “We soak overnight and freeze it after fermentation and keep knocking it back.” According to Gary there is nowhere for the winemaker to hide when making Moscato – it is all about fruit from the vineyard. “Any imbalance is really accentuated.”

 

BEST REGIONS FOR AUSTRALIAN MOSCATO

In Australia, Moscato grows in a wide range of regions, most notably in:

  • Heathcote
  • King Valley
  • Yarra Valley
  • Rutherglen
  • Barossa Valley
  • Riverina
  • Hunter Valley
  • Margaret River
  • Great Southern

 

WHAT DOES MOSCATO TASTE LIKE?

Moscato is a very nose-worthy wine. “The aroma is generally musky, but it can be a bit dusty as well, with a range of sweetness from slightly dry to fully sweet and from still, to frizzante to bubbly,” Gary continues. “All are valid examples of the variety.”

Another reason Moscato is so highly popular is that it’s typically made with lower alcohol (around 5-6%), whereas white wine is much higher with 12% alcohol. It’s commonly made in a lighter-bodied style with a fine bubble and bead. You’ll also find Moscato used as a core ingredient in many cocktails.

When it comes to flavour, “A good Moscato should have that long length, good balance and acidity,” says Gary. “It should not have any coarseness or hardness, and should not be cloying on the palate.”

It’s also a very colourful wine, from light straw through to dark pinks, even reds, and the older the vine used, the greater the richness and intensity of flavour. Expect notes of frangipani, grapes, nectarine, guava and lychee. It’s made as a drink-now wine, so cellaring is not required.

 

BEST FOOD AND MOSCATO PAIRINGS

We make no secret of our love for Moscato, and it’s a love that’s only exceeded by pairing it with a delicious recipe from our friends at Selector magazine. As a somewhat sweet wine, Moscato is ideally enjoyed with foods on the sweeter end of the flavour spectrum, but is also the ideal accompaniment to a variety of cheeses and salads. Set your taste buds to fun with these great plates!

 

Cheese and Moscato Food Pairings 

Manchego cheese sticks with tomato jam

 

Caramelised maple pears

 

White Berry goat’s cheese cake

 

Whole baked camembert with nuts and honey

 

Caprese di pesca

 

Kumara and maple syrup loaf with walnuts

 

Fruit and Moscato Food Pairings 

Peach, brie and herb tart

 

Fruit salad with thyme, vanilla sugar and extra-virgin-olive-oil

 

Seasonal fruit with vincotto and crème fraiche

 

Gluten free crumble with pickled apple and date

 

Fresh figs with blue cheese and prosciutto

 

Apple strudel

 

Pear confit for cheese

 

DESSERT AND MOSCATO FOOD PAIRINGS

Coconut, mango and strawberry mousse with rose sorbet

 

Pineapple and lime upside down cake

 

Vanilla and lemon extra-virgin-olive-oil cake

 

Young coconut sorbet

 

Coconut pancakes

 

Poached rhubarb granita with cream cheese

 

Festive pavlova

 

Looking for more great food and wine pairings? Check out our Valentine's Day wine and dessert matching guide! You can also discover more about Moscato’s soaring popularity in Australia in this related article, or explore this country’s other great white wine varieties with our Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc deep dives. Happy travels!

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