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.

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!

365 DiFlora Moscato

And speaking of exploration and experimentation ….  This is the last of my tastings from the inexpensive Moscatos available in my area.  There are more, of course.  Many more, in fact.  But I had to cut myself off somewhere or I’d have permanent high blood sugar.  I saw some pink Moscatos and some sparkling Moscatos on the shelves that looked very interesting.  After awhile, perhaps I’ll pull a few of those for sampling.  For now, though, I’ll call this Moscato “tour” at an end with this interesting non-vintage offering imported from Italy by Whole Foods.

Winemaker:  Elledi (Cantina Levorato S.R.L.) for Whole Foods
Wine:  365 DiFlora Moscato
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Puglia IGT, Italy
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  In the glass, the color of this somewhat drier Moscato (11% alcohol) was a light yellow.  The bouquet on this Italian was surprisingly faint with only light suggestions of citrus and peach.  The body was light and acidity was fine.  On the tongue, I found mostly floral notes with honey and herbs .  I did taste an underlying apricot, but it was definitely second (or third) fiddle.  I’d say that makes this Moscato quite different from the main.

Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti 2012

I hate it when life gets in the way of blogging!  Every once in a while that happens to me.  But I’m happy to say that it hasn’t stopped me from drinking some wine and taking notes.  Those who drop in often know I’ve been working my way through some cheap Moscato’s, and here is another.  This is from the very famous Asti region in Italy.

Winemaker:  Villa Alena
Wine:  Moscato d’Asti
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Asti, Italy DOCG
Price:  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Color on this one was a very pale yellow.  The bouquet was extremely faint with an almost dusty quality.  It was light-bodied and very effervescent.  I mean it was bubbly and frothy on the opening and stayed lively throughout.  Flavors were fairly simple – honey and sweet apricot with some peach notes, too.  Acidity was fine and alcohol was at 5.5%.  Yes, another very sweet dessert wine, to be sure.  As bubbly as it is, you could use this for a fun, casual summer birthday toast instead of the expected Champagne.  And it’s easy on the budget.

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.

Riven Rock Moscato 2012

Riven Rock Vineyards is a winemaker I hadn’t heard of before seeing this selection on the shelves of my local Whole Foods.  Doing just a bit of looking around, I found that this label is produced by a company called ASV Wines.  ASV says they have several lines of “control brands” which includes the Riven Rock group as well as a private label program.  

Winemaker:  Riven Rock
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $6.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The color of this California Moscato was pale yellow.  It’s bouquet brought very light scents of spiced peaches.  The body of this Riven Rock was medium-light.  It had a gentle viscosity and sufficient acidity (but a little on the low side for me).  Alcohol was at 11%.  Simply put, it tasted like spiced peaches in light syrup.  Or more correctly, it tasted like drinking the light syrup from a can of spiced peaches, albeit not quite as heavy and sweet as syrup from the canned peaches my father used to enjoy so much.  Funny, he wasn’t much of a drinker – maybe one or two glasses of something on a festive occasion per year.  But I have no doubt that this Moscato would have been right down his alley.  He also liked circus peanuts, if that tells you anything about his taste preferences.

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.