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Beloved by many, hated by few, and misunderstood by most, moscato is certainly one of the most talked-about wines on the market. Fizzy, frothy and pleasantly sweet, it’s no surprise that this particular wine has skyrocketed in popularity. However, not all moscato is created equal.
The moscato that most people know and love is moscato d’Asti, the popular off-dry/sweet wine from northern Italy. When vinified well, these pleasantly effervescent wines are sweet and balanced by tons of acidity, and when coupled with their signature low-ABV, they are seriously easy to drink. Moscato’s viticultural potential goes far beyond just Italy, however.
Moscato d’Asti is produced from the moscato bianco grape, otherwise known as muscat or muscat blanc à petits grains. The grape is also commonly vinified in southern France, Alsace and Greece, each of which produces very different expressions of the grape. Moral of the story? This versatile grape can do a whole lot.
Confused? Not to worry. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about moscato/muscat below, as well as recommending some of the best expressions of this versatile variety.
Best Overall: G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti
Region: Piedmont, Italy | ABV: 5.5% | Tasting Notes: Lychee, Pear, Floral
In its most popular form, moscato d’Asti hails from Italy’s Piedmont region. The wine is generally off-dry to sweet and ranges in effervescence levels from frizzante to spumante. G.D. Vajra is one of the region’s most respectable producers and is best known for their responsible farming practices, longstanding history, and well-crafted bottles. Notes of juicy pears, lychee, honeysuckle, and rose petals jump from the wine’s frothy and fruit-driven palate.
Best for Brunch: Risata Moscato D'Asti
Region: Piedmont, Italy ABV: 5.5% | Tasting Notes: Stone fruit, Lemon rind, Honey
When picking a wine for a boozy brunch that promises not to kill the rest of your day, seeking out something with a low-ABV is key—enter moscato d’Asti.
This popular expression from Risata wines is lightly effervescent and marked by succulent notes of stone fruit, honey, and fresh-cut flowers. Sip chilled on its own or alongside sweet brunch dishes like crepes, fruit pancakes or gooey French toast.
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Best Budget: Vietti Cascinetta Moscato d’Asti
Region: Piedmont, Italy | ABV: 5% | Tasting Notes: Honey, Canned Peach, Ginger
This classic moscato d’Asti from Vietti is produced from organically-farmed fruit and is made at the hands of one of Piedmont’s biggest names. Expect thirst-quenching notes of honey, canned peaches, white flower petals, and ginger on the palate. Sip with light salads, fruit parfaits or Italian-inspired cheese boards.
“When I look for good moscato, I'm not looking for a particular style or sweetness level,” says Erin Scala, founder of In Vino Veritas in Keswick, Va. “To me, a good moscato will typically come from someone approaching the grape with care and reverence, someone who appreciates this special grape's contributions to the history of wine. Through that lens, the wine can be exhilarating and decadent.”
Best Sparkling: Sant’Orsola Moscato d’Asti
Region: Piedmont, Italy | ABV: 5.5% | Tasting Notes: White Blossoms, Honey Suckle
Why choose between frizzante and spumante when you can have both? In Italian sparkling wine production, frizzante bottles boast a frothy, fizzier mouthfeel, whereas spumante wines present a more powerful mousse on the palate. With Sant’Orsola, you get the best of both worlds. Their standard moscato is loaded with flavors of citrus rind and stone fruit, whereas the spumante shows more floral-driven flavors of white blossoms, honeysuckle and flower petals. Do yourself a favor and grab one of each and do a side by side comparison—you won’t regret it.
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Best for Dessert: La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia Moscato d’Asti
Region: Piedmont, Italy | ABV: 5% | Tasting Notes: Honey, Peach, Green Apples
This creamy, softly sweet moscato from La Spinetta is perfect for sipping alongside a variety of desserts. Juicy notes of honey, peach skin, and green apple come alive when served with a variety of tartlets, fruit pies or parfaits. Looking for the sweetest way to end a long meal? This bottle’s just the ticket.
“When I get the feeling that people are unappreciative of moscato (which is quite often), I try to tell them about the (historical expressions) that helped save a post-phylloxera Crete, as well as the (wines) that were once a jewel of the Mediterranean,” says Scala. Simply put, drinking this grape is like drinking history.
Best Pink Moscato: Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato
Region: Yarra Valley, Australia | ABV: 5.5% Tasting Notes: Sherbet, Rhubarb, Citrus
Searching for a unique bottle from the Land Down Under? This one-of-a-kind bottle has your back. Hailing from Australia’s southerly Victoria region, this pale pink moscato oozes with flavors of fruit sherbet, rhubarb, citrus rind and candied apples. Sip with baked brie, walnut and goat cheese salads, or fresh fruit bowls sprinkled with sugar.
Best Organic: Elio Perrone ‘Sourgal’ Moscato d’Asti
Region: Piedmont, Italy | ABV: 5% | Tasting Notes: Fresh apricots, Pear skin, Mirabelle
Perrone’s frothy, fruit-forward moscato shows flavors of juicy apricots, pear skin and mirabelle. The fact that it is produced from organic fruit makes it all the better! Sip chilled before dinner, during weekend brunches, or at the end of a long day for a delicious touch of sweetness. We particularly love it with stir fry or slightly spicy Asian takeout favorites. You really can’t go wrong here.
Best Muscat-Based: Domaine Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes
Region: Roussillon, France | ABV: 15% Tasting Notes: Honey, Canned Fruit, Apricot
Muscat is widely cultivated across southern France. In the Languedoc region, the grape is used to create sweet vin doux naturel wines, otherwise known as VDNs. Vin doux naturels are produced very similarly to port. The wines begin vinification like any other dry wine would, however, a neutral grape spirit is then added to the must prior to its completion. This leaves excess residual sugar in the wine, though unlike moscato, the ABV is significantly higher (minimum 15% ABV), as the spirit adds an extra oomph of alcohol to the wine.
This sweet VDN from Domaine Cazes is loaded with flavors of honey, canned fruits, juicy apricot skin, peaches and orange blossom. Can’t decide on dessert? Simply serve a pour of this tasty nectar.
Best Dry Muscat: Trimbach Muscat Reserve
Region: Alsace, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Grapefruit, Tangerine, White Flowers, Saline
In France’s Alsace region, muscat is usually vinified on its own to create dry and highly aromatic wines. This dry expression comes from one of the region’s longest-standing and most legendary producers. Flavors of grapefruit, tangerine, white flowers, apple skin, and salt burst from the wine’s lively and long-lasting palate. Sip with pad-thai, wash-rind cheeses or paté. If you love Alsatian rieslings and gewurztraminer, we can’t recommend this bottle enough.
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Best for Gifting: Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti
Region: Piedmont, Italy | ABV: 5% | Tasting Notes: Canned Peaches, Apricots, Fresh-cut herbs, Floral
This fragrant, flavor-packed moscato d’Asti oozes with flavors of canned peaches, apricots, white flower blossoms, fresh-cut herbs and jasmine. Not sure what to get the sweet wine lover in your life? This bottle promises to impress—and the fact that it’s made with organically-farmed fruit is a bonus. Snag one for yourself while you’re at it.
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Vicki Denig is a wine and travel journalist based between New York and Paris. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. Her work regularly appears on Wine-Searcher, VinePair and more. Denig is also the Content Manager at Volcanic Selections, Paris Wine Company, Vin Fraîche, and more.