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Moscato wine: the sweet and authentic taste of the Italian end of the meal

  • 08/09/2023

​In its name and origins it bears Middle Eastern traces, while its aromatic imprint gives us an absolutely unmistakable experience, fruit of the territory in which it is produced: we are talking about Moscato wine, the undisputed protagonist of dessert wines. To discover its peculiarities, let's turn the spotlight on Moscadello di Montalcino, a real distillate of history and flavor which, according to the historical traces left by Pietro Aretino in 1540 and by Francesco Redi in 1685, is an integral part of the productive history of Montalcino, perhaps even more than Brunello, codified only in the mid-1800s. With Emanuele Nardi, Tenute del Cerro's wine maker, we took stock of this fine wine and the white Moscato, the vine that is at its origin and which grows at the foot of the suggestive Sant'Antimo Abbey, in the heart of the estate "La Poderina".

Con Emanuele Nardi, enologo di Tenute del Cerro, abbiamo fatto il punto su questo vino pregiato e sul Moscato bianco, il vitigno che ne è all'origine e che si sviluppa ai piedi della suggestiva Abbazia di Sant'Antimo, nel cuore della tenuta “La Poderina".

 

A look at the Muscat family

Before discovering the peculiarities of Moscato wine, it is useful to have an overview of the different types of dessert wines, the market segment in which this product fits. As Emanuele Nardi explains: “Moscato bianco is one of the most present vines in Italy, but it has different variations, ranging from sparkling wines, such as those typical of Piedmont in the Asti area, to those processed as dry whites, present a bit in all regions, to get to the Muscats more typically classified as dessert wines, including late harvest, sweet and botryt wines.

The first, as the name suggests, are the result of a harvest postponed by about a month: normally, in fact, the white Moscato grapes ripen in September, while to obtain a late harvest, one waits for the month of October. This prolonged maturation process leads to a reduction of the water contained in the bunches and to a higher concentration of sugars.

In the case of sweet wines, however, before starting the normal winemaking process, the grapes are harvested and left to dry on racks or in special boxes.

On the other hand, the procedure at the base of the molds is different, which involves the interaction between the bunches and a noble mold known as Botrytis Cinerea: in addition to favoring the dehydration of the berries, the latter enriches the aromatic component of the final product".

 

Come si abbina il vino moscato?

To introduce us to the evocative world of food and wine pairings, Emanuele Nardi makes a clarification: “Muscat is often thought of as a delicate vine, which quickly tends to lose its characteristics, but if worked well, whatever the declination, this type of grape it also lends itself to long aging processes which significantly affect the aromatic spectrum".

"This assumption - continues the winemaker - allows us to dispel a myth: Moscato is not only a young wine and can also be appreciated in very aged formulations". 

Having said this, Nardi explains that a dry moscato is usually paired with a rather traditional cuisine and managed as a classic white wine, therefore to be paired with a selection of dishes characterized by a structure of flavors that is not particularly strong and elaborate. “Then, of course - continues the winemaker - much depends on the personal taste and inspiration of the chef because, although Italian cuisine understood in the classic sense does not include combinations out of the ordinary, and therefore we do not expect to combine Moscato with meat, it is equally true that in the wake of the new trends that integrate sweet and savory in the first or second courses it is also possible to imagine the unprecedented combination of a Moscato, perhaps very aged, with the main courses".

The winemaker concludes that - apart from exceptional cases - “the freshest Moscatos, with an important residual sugar, find their best expression in pairings at the end of a meal, the only risk, at most, can be translated in a combination with cheeses".

The undisputed realm of this type of wine, therefore, is that of desserts, a sensorial universe in which its aromas have the possibility of conversing with the great variety of Italian desserts. Also on this front, of course, each Moscato, based on its structure, will marry best with a specific range of desserts, not surprisingly, as Emanuele Nardi points out, "One of the parameters taken into consideration for pairings is precisely the residual sugar: with a dry pastry, for example, it is possible to serve a Moscato that is not particularly sweet, while with spoon preparations, such as creams, one is inclined towards a Moscato with a higher residual sugar".

 

Moscadello di Montalcino: the Moscato of the mists

As with all Italian Moscato wines, understanding the fascinating path that from white Moscato grapes leads to the uniqueness of Moscadello di Montalcino means starting from the cultivation area. At the base of this highly prized product there is a typical clone of the area: it is a vine that derives some of its main characteristics from the geographical area in which it grows. We are in Castelnuovo dell'Abate, in the downstream area of the entire Poderina district: here it is not uncommon to witness the formation of banks of fog which decisively affect the aromatic spectrum of the grapes and, therefore, the unmistakability of the final product. Indeed, as Emanuele Nardi explains: "If sometimes the presence of fog can represent a negative component for the production of Brunello, the opposite phenomenon occurs for Moscadello: this particular climatic condition favors the development of Botrytis Cinerea, the noble rot that, as we have seen, it is used for the production of botrytized wines. The result of this particular combination is an aromatic vine with very important olfactory notes that evoke hints of jasmine and orange blossom. But there's more: “The Moscadello di Montalcino produced on the estate - Nardi specifies - is classified as a late harvest, but has some characteristics of moldy grapes, this means that the fruit notes typical of the late harvest, with the scent of peaches and ripe apricots meet the typical aromas of dried fruit and the unmistakable scent of saffron which characterizes the moldy wine". 

Therefore, for its historicity, aromatic spectrum and area of origin, Moscadello di Montalcino is truly unique, a condensed of Tuscan authenticity capable of enhancing the dishes it is paired with simplicity and elegance: to discover it in its production context the ideal is a visit to the "Poderina" cellar: here, immersed in an agricultural landscape that was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004, visitors have the opportunity to get in touch with the winemaking history of the area and appreciate the Moscadello Vendemmia Tardiva produced on the estate together with the fine Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, also available in the Riserva version.

 

And are you curious to let yourself be conquered by the sweet and intense taste of Tuscan wines?​​​

 

 

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