Moscato madness has hit North America. It’s the fastest-growing “brand”— or technically grape variety made in a certain style — in Canada and the U.S., and it’s the latest rapper-approved wine shouted out in tracks by artists such as Kanye West, Lil’ Kim and Drake. However, unlike Cristal, which has been lyrically referenced in the past, everyone can afford this beverage. And, while it’s doubtful the music industry is the sole reason for its upswing, it’s likely it has brought awareness to a young audience. With its sweet fruity flavour, low alcohol level and — in many cases — bubbles, it has easy appeal among new drinkers.
And, although a younger crowd may have ignited an interest in the grape variety, Moscato’s becoming a hit across generations. “I am starting to see older ladies enjoying it as well now,” says Nicole Exner, GM of the Elephant & Castle Pub and Restaurant on Yonge Street in Toronto. “As more people become introduced to Moscato, more people have started ordering it.”
The proof is in the numbers, with sales in Canada showing dramatic increases. Our latest national figures show a growth of 128.7 per cent between March 2011 and March 2012, compared to the previous year. In case sales it represents a jump from 48,161 to 110,162. Interestingly, Quebec appears to be adopting at a slower pace compared to the rest of Canada, with an increase of 25 per cent.
Barefoot Moscato, an E&J Gallo Winery product from California (approximately $10 in most provinces), is the top seller in Canada and a favourite of Exner’s. “In trying to find a Moscato that was easy drinking and highlighted the best of that grape, I was pleasantly surprised by the Barefoot Moscato,” she says. “I love that grape. It is fruit-forward, wonderfully smooth to drink — the perfect amount of sweetness.”
Other Moscato on our liquor shelves hail from the Golden State and include Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Moscato and Sutter Home’s Pink Moscato. Australia has also jumped on this winning bandwagon in Canada with Jacob’s Creek Moscato, McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Moscato and Banrock Station Pink Moscato Rosé now available.
In Ontario, Pelee Island Winery has made a floral, off-dry $10 Moscato that’s winning fans. “Despite being available for only a short time, our Pelee Moscato is already one of the most popular and bestselling [Moscato wines] at the LCBO,” says Darryl MacMillan, sales and marketing manager at Pelee.
However, the original Moscato is from Italy’s Piedmont region where Moscato d’Asti is classified a D.O.C.G. (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita), a protected and strictly controlled appellation of origin. There are many examples of this sweet, bubbly and aromatic white wine available in Canada such as Batasiolo Moscato d’Asti Bosc del Rei and Dezzani Morelli Moscato d’Asti — both approximately $15.
Drake sings about sipping Moscato with lobster, but that’s not the best pairing. The Italian Moscato is best served with dessert and is especially tasty with fresh fruit and cake — making it particularly popular at weddings. The still versions are best paired with mild cheeses, aromatic Asian dishes and light fare such as chicken caesar salad and crab cakes with mango salsa. All of the Moscato wines drink well solo as an aperitif or post meal. But, either way, Moscato’s a hit that will keep getting play until the next big grape variety comes along.