For my mother’s 60th birthday, I hedged my bets. I bought several bottles of Champagne for her party, but also brought along several bottles of Moscato d’Asti. Over the years I have received consistently good feedback whenever I’ve served this wine.
For orientation, Moscato (Bianco) is the Italian name for the Muscat grape, and Asti is the capital city of the province of Asti in the Piedmont region of northern Italy.
If you are thinking cheap Asti Spumanti, don’t. The Piedmont region is also renowned for fine Barolo and Barbera wines, and is the home to the white Italian truffle. Moscatos can be beautifully crafted wines that tend to taste like white peach nectar with similar beautiful aromas.
They lack the snob appeal of Champagne, but very good ones can be had in the $18-$24 dollar range. These will have a bit more acid for balance. The cheaper ones in the $12-$14 dollar range can be unpleasantly sweet.
Moscato is essentially a dessert wine, but can be a really nice alternative for people who don’t like the tartness of dry champagne, but still want something sparkling to celebrate.
I particularly like to serve this wine in the summer time, well chilled and with the addition of slices of ripe pear. Moscatos pair well with light pastries, meringues, and sweet citrus desserts, but seem to be best when berries are involved.
Last night we tried a Braida ‘Vigna Senza Nome’ 2009 with a mixed berry tart and everyone agreed that they were amazingly good together.
The Braida was a straw yellow color with a good amount of foam and a creamy mouth feel. The aromas were of white peaches with a hint of citrus flowers. The taste was again of white peach and some pear, and the wine had a nice acidity in the finish.
When buying Moscato in general, select young wines, one to two years old, and try to avoid ones that are too sweet. Ask the seller if they have tasted the wine. Some of the less expensive bottles can truly be sparkling corn syrup, but the good ones can become favorites for many years.By Richard Arebalo