Barefootin’ In July – How Sweet It Is

It’s summer, summer, summertime!  Well, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, anyway.  For those of us north of the equater, this warm weather season is the perfect time to enjoy light, refreshing wines.  Not that we can’t drink them whenever we like, of course, but I feel the experience and enjoyment of these lighter selections is heighted in contrast to the often sweltering heat at this time of year.  Don’t you think so?  In light of that, I thought I’d experiment with my first Pink Moscato.

Winemaker:   Barefoot
Wine: Pink Moscato
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price: $7.99

Notes:  The color of this sweet California Moscato was a pale . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . pink!  Shocking, no?  On the nose I caught scents of roses and sweet berries.  Acidity was quite lively.  It was a fairly light-bodied selection, albeit sweet at 9% alcohol.  Flavors consisted of an underlying foundation of apricot with an overlay veneer of cherry, some candied melon rind, and a touch of grapefruit on the finish.  This is definitely a dessert wine in my opinion.  Then again, I’m a savory over sweet kind of guy, so my natural preference is for items – foods and drinks – that are less sweet.  For me, then, this Barefoot was quite sweet, even syrupy at times.  As I said, however, it might be a good choice for a summer dessert.  I could totally imagine enjoying a strawberry shortcake with this as a complement or a bowl of fresh berries with a dash of it over the top instead of sugar or whipped cream.  If you like your wine on the sweet side, you may well enjoy this inexpensive blush.

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10 Cheap Moscatos

Over the past several months I did a series of Moscato tastings inspired by the rise in popularity this wine has been enjoying as well as it’s growing presence on store shelves.  Like other sweet wines, this venerable varietal has been downplayed by many wine experts.  And yet, the history of this wine goes back farther than many – if not all – of the so-called “serious” wines.  I have to admit that even my initial mentors in the world of all things wine taught me that I should dislike sweet wines.

But I don’t like people telling me what I should think – or what I should drink.  Don’t get me wrong: I love a big chewy, dry red.  I really do!  Even so, I’m of the opinion that the wine varietals that are produced around the world all have a purpose, a place.  And just like fashion and music and food, the spotlight moves here and there, giving each varietal it’s time at center stage.  Remember how huge Chardonnay was a decade or so ago?  Not that it disappeared, of course.  Anyway, right now it looks like Moscato has it’s own follow spot.  I mean, let’s face it.  It’s been getting multiple mentions in popular music.  Celebrities are endorsing and lending their names to brands of Moscato.  It’s hot!

Because this blog focuses on the exploration and enjoyment of wines that are moderately priced (aka cheap), I didn’t seek out all the top names or brands of the moment.  Instead, I just bought what I saw on the store shelves.  And what did I find there?  Well…

As you may know, I don’t have a rating system on this blog.  But I do sometimes compare wines in light of my own personal preferences.  So in that spirit, I’d have to say my favorite Moscato of those I tasted this time around was the Rex-Goliath Moscato.  This was a white Moscato imported from Argentina – only one of that winery’s several Moscato offerings.  I think they have another white Moscato on store shelves at 9.5% alcohol.  They also do a pink and a red Moscato.  This Rex-Goliath was the driest Moscato I tasted at 11.5% alcohol, and yet it was the most fun to drink because of it’s ebullient flavor profile, coat-the-tongue lushness and energetic but not overpowering acidity.  I also enjoyed the  Sutter Home Moscato imported from Chile quite a bit.  The Sutter Home was a little sweeter and also had some interesting flavors along with hints of spice.  Rounding out my top three of the ten I sampled is the Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti 2012.  The sweetest among my faves at 5.5% alcohol, this Italian Moscato is like cotton candy in a glass.  It’s also extremely effervescent and could easily take the place of a sparkling wine for toasting an informal celebration – birthday, housewarming, groundhog day, whatever.

I have to say that I’ve gained a new appreciation for this old grape.  I have my eye on a few more I think I’d like to check out.  But in the meantime, here are the rest of the Moscatos I tasted this go-round in no particular order.

Sara Bee Moscato
Riven Rock Moscato 2012

Naked Grape Moscato
Gallo Moscato Chile
Fish Eye Moscato 2011
Barefoot Moscato
365 DiFlora Moscato

As always, I’m open to recommendations.  So feel free to drop me a note and tell me what I’ve missed.  Or maybe you’ll find something among these selections that you enjoy.  Here’s wishing you many good wine adventures!

Sara Bee Moscato

Since I’m winding down my “tour” of cheap Moscatos available in my area, I had to include some offerings from Italy.  Although I have seen it asserted that the Moscato grape originated in Greece, the Italians have been cultivating and fermenting these grapes since as far back as the early 1300’s.  That’s a lot of time to practice the art of making wine from Moscato!

Winemaker:  Sara Bee by Santero F.lli & C. I.V.A.S.S. S.p.A.
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Puglia, Italy IGT
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  In the glass, the color of this sweet white wine – says so on the label – is a vibrant yellow.  On first opening, there was quite a bit of effervescence.  It almost seemed like a sparkling wine right down to the satisfying (and unexpected) “pop” when the cork was removed.  But the effervescence quickly dissipated.  On the nose of this kosher Moscato I caught lots of floral scent and honey.   I suppose that might be why they call it Sara Bee and have a honeybee on the label!  It was medium-light in body, the acidity was bright, and the alcohol was at 5.5%.  Given the low alcohol content, I was concerned that this would be sickly sweet.   And it was quite sweet.  However, the higher acidity managed to help (but not completely) counterbalance the heavy sweetness.  On the palate, I tasted apple cider and peach.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Naked Grape Moscato (c. 2013)

Another inexpensive Moscato?  Well ,,, I did say that I’d be making my way through a few that are available in my local stores.  So I’m just keeping my promise.

Winemaker:  The Naked Grape
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  In the glass, this California Moscato was a pale, bubbly yellow.  On the nose I found sweet peach with floral notes.  On the tongue, this Naked Grape was light-bodied, lightly viscous, and lightly effervescent.  On the palate, I tasted nectarine, honey, notes of orange and green melon rind on the finish.  Acidity was all right, and the alcohol was pegged at 8.5% on the label.  On the whole, I thought it was fine.  However, I did wish it had something more in the flavor profile – maybe some touches of spice.  Even so, I’m sure plenty of folks are enjoying this Moscato – perhaps with their favorite light summer dessert (I’m imagining an orange bundt cake for some reason).

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Gallo Moscato Chile (c. 2013)

Evidently, the folks at Gallo are doing their part in providing plenty (and I do mean plenty) of options for Moscato lovers.  This Chilean import is part of their Gallo Family Vineyards line of wines.

Winemaker:  Gallo
Varietal:  Moscato
Wine:  Moscato Chile
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Chile
Price:  $5.99

Notes:  In the glass, this budget white was a light gold.  On the nose I found scents of peach and apple.  It was medium-to-light in body and with enough viscosity to begin edging toward a syrupy feel.  Flavors for me were ripe peach, apple and a touch of persimmon.  It’s a sweet wine, to be sure.  Alcohol is at 9%.   I think if the acidity had been a tad brighter in this Gallo offering, I would have enjoyed it more.  I’ve been tasting a number of Moscato’s lately.  This wasn’t a terrible glass of wine in my opinion, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Barefoot Moscato (c. 2013)

This is the third post in my series of tasting inexpensive (aka cheap) Moscato wines.  If you haven’t seen the other posts, I’ve already had the Sutter Home Moscato imported from Chile and the Rex-Goliath Moscato imported from Argentina.  This is the first California offering of the group.

Winemaker:  Barefoot
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price:  $8.59

Notes:  This Barefoot Moscato is swee – EET!  In the glass, the color is extremely pale yellow.  On the nose I caught faint whiffs of peach, honey, and spice with floral notes.  I’d swear I smelled a hint of gardenia.  The body of this non-vintage Californian was quite light, and it had only a hint of the characteristic viscosity.  Acidity was OK which gave this Moscato just a suggestion of effervescence.  On the palate, I tasted honey aplenty, peach, and star fruit.  The finish brought a lively lemon-grass and then a lingering and very subtle bitterness I can only describe as peach pit.  If you’ve ever sucked on a peach pit, you know what I’m talking about.  Again, it’s a pretty light wine, and it’s exceedingly sweet.  Alcohol is at 9%, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if the label said 5%.  I don’t think I would serve this in any other capacity than as a dessert, with dessert, or in dessert.  Sweetness aside, though, it wasn’t a bad wine.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Sutter Home Moscato

Since a) Moscato seems to be on an uptick and b) I recently tasted an inexpensive new Argentine import from Rex-Goliath, I have decided to sample several of the budget Moscatos available at my area stores.  Not a side-by-side comparison, but a comparison of sorts nonetheless.  And why not?  It’s summer, and I’ve seen Moscato described as “capturing the essence of summer.”  So … ’tis the season!

Winemaker:  Sutter Home
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Chile
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  In the glass this Chilean Moscato is a very pale yellow.  On the nose I caught scents of citrus and peach with floral notes.  It was a light-bodied selection with quite a pleasant viscosity.  Flavors for me were peach, lemon, candied melon rind, and light hints of spices.  My only real issue would be that, except for a lone faint citrus note, it seemed fairly weak on the finish.  Alcohol is at 10%.  Overall, it was pretty easy to drink.  This wasn’t a nuanced wine by any means, but it didn’t come off as a bull in a china shop either.  You want a relaxed, definitely sweet, cheap Moscato?  This could be your wine!  It might serve fine as an apéritif for a casual summer gathering, especially if you’re serving some spicy chicken wings as appetizers.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.