I have to admit, when I think of Muscat I think of soda pop: One that goes to your head quicker than a fast roll down a hill. I know that’s making an uneducated assumption because lately, you can’t escape the fact that Muscato D’Asti’s popularity is growing in leaps and bounds. That’s thanks, in part, to the constant references by artists like Kanye West, Drake, Lil Kim and others singing about its sweet charms and how it makes them feel. It also seems to have helped christen it as a bonafide brand. Muscato is now what Cristal used to be in rap songs: the wine of choice for a new generation of trend setters rolling to the club and chilling in the VIP.
It’s an interesting pick, but not surprising when you think about it. Muscato is a good, easy drinking, entry level wine: sweet but not overpowering, light and refreshing. And the price point of between $12-14 a bottle makes it an attractive alternative to white zinfandel.
According to a recent article in New York Magazine, the demand for Muscato is far outweighing the supply, with wineries scrambling to increase its cultivation and production.Most of the bigger producers of wine are now introducing or heavily promoting their Muscato offerings. A big push is being felt even here in the Cleve. Heinen’s Strongsville wine manager Paul Hoefke says he’s seen a steady increase in sales over the last eight months and doesn’t expect it to dip any time soon. He suggested an ‘11 Galilee Muscato from Golan Heights, an Israeli winery. It’s one that is difficult to come by and once gone, can’t be found again for at least a year. The price point on this was about $17.99 as compared to most Moscato I saw that ranged between $9.99 and $14.99.
One of the oldest known varietals, Muscat thrives in warmer climates. You won’t see any grown here in Ohio, it’s too damn cold. The largest producer in the US is California, which makes perfect sense. There are more than 200 types of Muscat and range in color (from white to blush to a black); some are sparkling, while other less so. The main distinction with Muscato is in the fermentation process,Golan Heights states that it is the stopping of fermentation early that makes it sweeter. It has a relatively low alcohol content that makes it lighter and more refreshing. Since it has a strong, sweet base, Muscat generally pairs well with light cheeses like Parmiagiano-Reggiano, goat cheese, triple creams, desserts with Marscapone; spongy cakes and cookies. Yet, contrary to some opinions, a dryer offering in the style of Muscat d’Alsace apparently pairs nicely with shellfish such as lobster or shrimp. Drake was right!
In the past, I’ve found Muscat to be a heady, sweet confection of a wine (although different from a late harvest or ice wine). Since I was researching it, an experiment was necessary. It looked like fun as it poured into my glass; bubbles raced to the rim and released an effervescent scent of citrus and honey. While it was, as promised, sweet on the top, it wasn’t sickly or cloying. It was very light, very refreshing and very enjoyable. I could enjoy a glass on a hot summer day but only one small glass. Any more, and it would be a quick ride to headache city, a place where there is no VIP room.
It’s always good to try something a little different and fun, and this certainly was. As for what to pair it with, I think that has more to do with what an individual likes, as opposed to any hard and fast rules. That game, appears to be changing. Rapidly.