Moscato: The wine to drink when you don't feel like getting drunk

Last weekend's back-to-back Cinco de Mayo and Kentucky Derby party shenanigans left us feeling more than a little ready to lay off the sauce for a minute. Yet by noon on Sunday, there we were, staring down the wine list at brunch, feeling that familiar urge. That's when it hit us: There is a unique, sublimely versatile wine that's just the thing when you feel like sippin' on a little somethin', but you're not necessarily in the mood to tie one on: Moscato. Who said that a wine needs to clock chart-busting alcohol levels to make for a good time? Moscato's alcohol by volume (ABV) typically ranges between 5 and 10 percent, which makes it an incredibly refreshing drink that will satisfy your wine craving with no morning-after regrets.

Like Champagne or other sparklers, moscato is the perfect beverage for drinking at just about every time of day. Need a slightly sparkling wine to combine with peach puree for a brunch-time Bellini? Moscato is that wine. Looking for a bevvie to pair with an indulgent lunch of pasta with truffles? See above. Let's say it's happy hour, and the bar is inexplicably fresh out of bubbly. Look no further than moscato to stand in for any off-dry white wine, especially if you're planning to nosh on any salty bar snacks. Here are three fabulous moscato wines to flirt with this season.

Pio Cesare Moscato d'Asti 2009 ($20, 5.5% ABV): This is such a fantastic wine. The Cesare family has been making wine in northwestern Italy for more than one hundred years, and this limited production bottling is the perfect example of classic moscato. Refreshingly semi-sweet, this beautifully frizzante, golden-hued wine's honeyed apricot and nectarine flavors paired to stunning effect with our dinner of spicy Asian-style black pepper shrimp.

Emeri Pink Moscato NV ($10, 8% ABV): Yet another excuse to drink rosé bubbly. While you might not have expected to see a moscato that hails from Australia, you should absolutely expect to adore this wine. Fairly bursting with juicy strawberry and ripe plum flavors, drinking it reminded us a little bit of our first boyfriend: sweet, charming and loads of fun. Open this at your next brunch or better yet, stash a few bottles in your picnic basket this summer and take a humble meal of hard salami, cured olives, and Parrano cheese to the next level.

Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti Nivole 2009 ($14, 5% ABV): Everything about this wine screams summertime. Bushels of Palisade peaches. Fragrant aromas of honeysuckle. Crisp, lemon-kissed shortbread cookies with dollops of whipped cream. If those descriptions conjure up images of dessert, you know where we're heading from a wine pairing perspective. While you could absolutely enjoy this stellar wine as an aperitif, we think it shines most brightly when matched with something every bit as sweet, fruity, and delightful as it is.

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