The wine world's practically been doing head spins over the past six months as notable hip-hop players Nelly, Drake, Kanye West, and even poor, misbegotten Lil Kim spit verses praising moscato, a fairly under-the-radar wine known by most as a sweet wine from Italy. It seems that a few vaunted members of the wine media took offense at urban peeps gettin' their drink on with a wine that a) is typically reserved for dessert and b) whose charms might be wasted on some of those allegedly less-than-sophisticated palates.
Haters notwithstanding, moscato sales in the U.S. are most definitely popping: Reports depict a jaw-dropping 73 percent increase equating to roughly 800,000 additional cases sold in 2011 than the year before. Frankly, we're inclined to celebrate anytime people are drinking more wine, regardless of dubious motivations. So it's perplexing how little love seems to be dedicated to breaking down myriad moscato-related myths and stereotypes that stretch far beyond the hip-hop community -- these are wines that everyone can (and should) be getting down with. Why the hell should rappers have all the fun? Below, we bring the goodness on three bottles of moscato that are more than worth the hype.
Domaine Allimant Laugner Muscat 2008 ($16): Right away we need to let you know that not all muscat wines are sweet, nor are they sparkling, as fans of moscato d'asti might suspect. There are dozens of muscat varieties which can be made into wines ranging from bone dry to honey-soaked. For us, though, muscat just really does not get any better than this. It smells phenomenal, like a fistful of honeysuckle blossoms and freshly sliced Asian pears. Layered on top? Aromas of a rain-soaked beach. All of that aromatic foreplay leads to an unbelievably bright, elegant and most important, restrained mouthful of refreshment. If you're not sure you're ready to jump straight into a mostly dry muscat wine, pair it with something you might find yourself snacking on if you found yourself in Alsace, France, where this wine is from. Such a meal would likely involve grilled sausages, or foie gras, but you'd be just as giddy drinking this with a platter of bacon-wrapped sea scallops. You will thank us, and then you will buy several more bottles.
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The Infinite Monkey Theorem Sparkling Black Muscat NV ($7, 250 ml): When Ben Parsons and his merry band of winemaking pals threw a secret release party for this wine -- in an abandoned mine, no less -- during last summer's Food & Wine Cassic in Aspen, people wondered if this slightly sparkling, decidedly sugary brand of muscat would be more than a flash in the proverbial pan. After selling out of several thousand shotgunnable cans later, a fresh batch of monkey-adorned cans has just hit the streets. At a recent tasting of muscat-based wines, we reflexively pushed the IMT offering to the end of the lineup -- where we'd typically want the sweetest wine of the night to land. Turns out our assumption was wrong. This year's version has managed to simultaneously dial back the residual sugar while still bringing the same spicy-sweet lychee and pear-driven profile we loved about the original. Not sure we're gonna hold out until picnic season to start schlepping cans of this with us everywhere we go.
Villa Rosa Moscato d'Asti DOCG NV ($10): In this case, we did in fact save the sweetest wine for last. And while this bottle probably exemplifies many of the qualities Kanye and his brethren have been rapping rhapsodic for, that doesn't mean you need to wait until dessert to pop it open. Here's where your chance to be a baller comes in: Show your peeps your mad pairing skills by pouring this alongside prosciutto-wrapped melon, crispy calamari or pesto-kissed ravioli. That's not to say you shouldn't absolutely sip this peach and nectarine-laden glass of deliciousness the next time you're treated to a happy ending -- one that involves the word "cobbler" or "tart" and just happens to be filled with some sort of stone fruit.