Wine review of Folonari Moscato, Santi Moscato Montedoro, Ca Bianca Moscato d'Asti DOCG

The sweet taste of Moscato provides perfect spring sipping

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While I believe that any wine can conceivably be consumed year-round, certain grapes and styles lend themselves to a particular season. Case in point: Moscato screams “spring” to me. Perhaps it’s the eternal optimism and happiness in the fun flavors that Moscato provides, or the bit of warmth I associate with the inherent sweetness. In any case. along with lovely dry Rosé, I find myself first reaching for Moscato each year right around the time I push my clock forward an hour. So here for your drinking pleasure is a look at three examples of Moscato. It’s not often that Moscato gets pricey, and these wines are bargains too -- each is under $15.

Moscato (if you’re not familiar) is a grape that is widely used in Italy to make charming wines. Well-made Moscato works exceedingly well as an aperitif, and is also lovely paired with certain desserts -- fruit tarts, mild and creamy cheeses as well as cheesecake are safe bets to pair with Moscato. It’s also a nice wine to sit on your deck and while away a sunny afternoon with.

First up is the Folonari 2010 Moscato. The fruit for this wine was grown on hillside vineyards in Oltrpo Pavese, Italy. The vineyards are part of an estate of more than 800 hectares (about 1,976 acres). The fruit was left to ripen a bit beyond maturity to bring out every ounce of fruit and sweetness. After gentle pressing, temperature-controlled fermentation took place in stainless steel. Moscato has lower alcohol content than the average table wine, and when the desired level was achieved fermentation was halted by dropping the temperature; this also keeps the inherent sweetness in place. This wine is 100 percent Moscato and has a suggested retail price of $7.99. A potpourri of aromas leap from the glass of this Moscato: apricot and white peach lead the way, with a bit of thyme, nutmeg and vanilla bean joining in as well. The white fruit characteristics continue through the appealing palate. Anjou pear, nectarine and honeydew kick in as well. Bits of white pepper emerge on the finish, which has some lingering sweetness but sufficient acidity to keep things in check and beckon you back to the glass for more.

Next up is the Santi 2010 Moscato Montedoro. It was produced using fruit sourced in the Trentino region of Italy. These vineyards, which are in the northern portion of Garda Lake, are also at the foothills of the Dolomites Mountains. The fruit was picked when it was very ripe. It was cold-macerated on the skins and fermented in a temperature-controlled environment. At the appropriate time fermentation was stopped to control the alcohol content and maintain the optimum level of sweetness. This selection is 100 percent Moscato and has a suggested retail price of $11.99. While the Folinari has a pale yellow color with a bit of a green tinge to it, this Moscato from Santi is more golden yellow in color. Mango, yellow cling peach and apricot aromas are all in evidence from the moment you stick your nose in the glass. Apricot and peach continues on the palate where hints of papaya and tropical melons join in. The finish shows off just a bit of clover honey, and along with some vanilla bean, provides a pleasing conclusion.

Last but not least is the Ca Bianca 2010 Moscato d’Asti DOCG. This wine, which was just added to the winery’s portfolio, was produced from fruit sourced at their hillside estate vineyards. This property is as high as 1,000 feet above sea level and located in the Alto-Monferrato section of Piedmont, Italy. The fruit is left on the vines past the point of ripeness. After they were gently pressed, fermentation took place in stainless steel at low temperatures. When the alcohol hits about 5 percent, fermentation is stopped by dropping the temperature. This offering is 100 percent Moscato and has a suggested retail price of $14.99. The nose of this wine doesn’t leap from the glass quite as quickly as on the Folinari or Santi; instead the aromas gently wash over as you take them in. Peach, blood orange, apricot and Meyer lemon characteristics are all apparent. From the first sip it’s apparent this is the sweetest of this trio. However, there is a lightness and delicacy to the palate that almost belies the initial impression of sweetness. A cavalcade of stone, citrus and tropical fruits create a complex mélange of flavors that carry through from the word go through the last, lingering drop. Once again this wine is balanced nicely by acidity even as it leaves a lasting impression of sweetness.

If you’re a Moscato fan already I urge you to pick up the entire trio and sample them side by side. There is a lot to be gleamed if you have the opportunity to taste in that manner. If, on the other hand, you’re dipping your foot in the Moscato pool for the first time, choose the one that sounds the most appealing and fits your budget. You can’t go wrong with any of these and you may just discover a whole new style to enjoy within the wine world. Have fun with it!

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