A Guide to Pairing: Moscato d’Asti

Hot on the heels of International Sauvignon Blanc Day is World Moscato Day!

Herein lies our guide for pairing with Moscato d’Asti wines, to be more specific…

A bit about Moscato d’Asti:

  • Likely born in Egypt, traced back documented to the Greeks, Muscat grapes might be one of the oldest grapes known and still grown (Muscat Alexandria)
  • Moscato comes from muscat grapes, which is a family of over 200 varieties, not a specific grape in itself.  Moscato comes specifically from the Muscat Canelli grape a.k.a. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains – which is quite a mouthful to say
  • While still and fully sparking variations are to be found, most expressions are done semi-sparkling, or frizzante with regard to Moscato d’Asti wines
  • Moscato d’Asti wines are generally very light on alcohol, most clocking in around 5-7% abv, with the highest expressions clocking in around 10% abv.  Most Napa reds start around the 14% mark for comparison

That said, let’s talk food (think like a chef):

Ok, first off, Moscato d’Asti is a sweet wine.  From semi-sweet to fully sweet.  So you’ll need to accept and appreciate that before beginning to pair with foods, otherwise, you may want to pass on this type of wine if you only enjoy or prefer dry wines.  If you have no experience with it, but enjoy Riesling or Gewürztraminer wines, you will most likely very much enjoy Moscato d’Asti.

As for flavor and aromatic profile, orange blossom, nectarine and peach take center stage with a nose of honeysuckle, jasmine, vanilla, and rose petal.  There is an unmistakable floral quality to the nose and palate of a Moscato d’Asti wine.  As always, it’s best to try a bottle before you bring it to a dinner for pairing purposes, that way there are no surprises come pairing time.

So with such a floral profile, it must be hard to par with certain foods, right?  Wrong.  Moscato d’Asti is surprisingly versatile, from being a stand alone aperitif, playing nicely with an appetizer, doing well by an entree, or accenting a dessert, Moscato can really do it all, and not many other wines can say that for themselves.

Compare AND contrast:

So comparable flavors are a shining point for Moscato.  Right out the gate, sweet with sweet, so if you have a sweet treat or sauce or jam, Moscato is the way to go.  Any inclusion of orange flower water in a dish, nectarine, or peaches, will go stunningly well with Moscato.  Soft cakes like sponge cake, sablé pastries, or ring cakes work incredibly well with the effervescence in the wine uplifting the lighter textured cakes.  Fruit tarts are another excellent pairing with Moscato.  Almond cookies, dried fruits of any kind, all remarkable when paired with Moscato (think cantucci biscuits, Panettone or Pandoro cakes).

Moscato does not lack in contrast pairings for all its abilities in the comparable realm – most wines favor one end of the spectrum or the other.  Fresh, salty salami with dried figs and fresh cut melons is an incredible food pairing focusing on the sweet, effervescent Moscato cutting the rich, fatty, salty salami while playing nicely with the figs and uplifting the melon flavors on the palate.  Spicy Indian dishes are notoriously difficult to pair with, except when Moscato is available.  The same can be said for spicy Thai, Chinese, or other southeast spicy asian cuisines.  Spicy seafood paella?  That’s another call for a Moscato pairing.  And if it’s in the ocean, and has a shell, then Moscato is an excellent way to go to balance the sweetness of the wine against the briney flavors found in shellfish.

Get weird:

Moscato d’Asti and milk.  Yup.  You just read that right.  The older folks of Piemonte will tell tale of when they were kids and they’d sweeten their morning steamed milk with lady fingers and a shot of Moscato.  You should try it, there is some weird beauty in the experience – if for nothing other than it just sounding so strange, but it totally lands on the palate.  Oh, and if you’re concerned about a bunch of old timers getting tipsy as kids, the low alcohol content in the wine actually burns off when poured into the steamed milk, so there were no tipsy kids heading to school that day.

So there you have it, our guide for pairing Moscato.

How about you though? For our other guests, please feel free to share your pairing suggestions for Moscato in the comments below.

Cheers!

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