Moscato…either you love it or hate it. There’s no in-between. The mere mention of the word will have many wine connoisseurs stop dead in the tracks with a side eye.
Oh, the judgment that comes along with drinking Moscato.
There’s just something about this sweet type of wine that makes people question its validity. But, what exactly is Moscato? It’s the Italian name for Muscat Blanc – one of the oldest wine grapes in the world. Moscato wine is well known for its nectarine, peach and orange blossom flavors. Aside from being sweet, it has low alcohol, which helps to make it very drinkable.
Moscato gained popularity in the early 2000s and earned even more buy-in when hip hop artists like Drake and Nicki Minaj started mentioning the wine in their songs.
And let’s face it, wine (which is mostly dry) is an acquired taste. Our palates are used to enjoying sweeter things, so I get it. Moscato was my entry way into wine, but once it became mainstream I challenged myself to expand my palate and eventually developed an affinity for drier wines. But, that’s not everyone’s desire and that’s okay.
So, if Moscato is your jam….
and not even Moscato, but if you prefer your wine to be sweet…allow me to meet you where you are and help you elevate your wine game! Moscato has become so synonymous for sweet wine that people fail to realize that there is a whole group of similar wines…that are shall I saw more mature…have more credibility than Moscato. So, check out these four alternative sweet wines that you can add to your rotation.
- Riesling: Riesling is a nice transition wine away from Moscato, especially if you don’t want the judgmental stares. It is an aromatic white grape that’s native to Germany. It’s also commonly found in Alsace (France), the Clare and Eden Valleys (Australia), and the Finger Lakes (United States). It has crisp flavors of apples, apricots, peaches, and pears along with high levels of acidity. Riesling also has a lot of range. It can be made as bone dry to sweet dessert wines to sparkling. However, traditionally most Riesling wines are on the sweeter end of the spectrum, in order to balance the wine’s high acidity. When in doubt, just ask to ensure that the Riesling you’re ordering is sweet if that’s your preference (and vice versa if you prefer dry).
- Gewürztraminer: Now that’s a mouthful, but don’t let that intimidate you. Pronounced ga-VERTZ-trah-mee-ner, Gewürztraminer is another aromatic white grape, but it originated in the Alsace region of France. Gewürztraminer is often identified by lychee and stone-fruit aromas and flavors. Rose, passion fruit and white and pink flowers are also often present on the nose and palate. It’s known as the grown-up version of Moscato. While Gewürztraminer wine has many similarities to Moscato it also has higher alcohol, more striking aromatics and lower acidity. All of these characteristics make Gewürztraminer more difficult to just chug down, thus making it more ‘adult.’ Gewürztraminer has that, how do I say…. je ne sais quoi that Moscato misses in complexity. Please note that like Riesling, Gewürztraminer isn’t always sweet, so be sure to ask so that you’re not disappointed.
- Sauternes: (Pronounced saw-turn) This is a sweet French wine named after its area of origin, the Sauternais region of the Graves area in Bordeaux. Sauternes is comprised of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. Sauternes qualifies as a very sweet wine, with anywhere from 120–220 g/L of residual sugar. So just how does Sauternes taste? It’s full of sweetness balanced with a touch of acidity and golden fruit like peaches and apricots drizzled in honey. It’s not cheap to make and thus is more expensive than the others. Though large bottles are produced, Sauternes is typically sold in half-sizes, of 375 ml.
- Ice Wine: Originally made in Germany and Austria, but also more recently in Canada, ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing for a more concentrated grape juice to develop. The grapes that grow well in cold climates make the best ice wines and these include: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and Chenin Blanc. Ice wines are expensive to make as well. Ice wine requires four to five times as many grapes. Plus, they’re all hand-picked. Expect to pay over $30 for a good ice wine.
These are four wines that you could easily start adding to your wine purchases if you enjoy sweeter wines like Moscato. They each have a lot of character and structure that gives them more respect in the wine world. No shade against Moscato, but you don’t have to stay in that lane if you don’t like dry wines. Have you tried any of these wines? Let me know what you think. I hope that with this post you’ll see there is a little community of sweet wines that you can also try. Until next time…glasses up!