Moscato di Nasty?

Many of us wine writers praise the trend to lower-alcohol wines. But there’s one low alcohol wine that has taken off yet generated little coverage: Moscato.

Sales of the $6 sweet, fizzy white that ranges between 5 – 9 percent alcohol have almost doubled each of the past two years, albeit off a small base. The top-selling Barefoot moscato, made by Gallo, had $31 million in sales in 2010. A spokesperson for Gallo told Marketwatch “What makes this so exciting is that it’s bringing new users to the wine category.” Yes, and where there are “users” there is “innovation” such as Beringer’s “red moscato” that adds zinfandel and petite syrah for some red and black cherry flavor. Yellow Tail recently introduced a moscato.

Moscato has now taken a revered place in pop culture as hip-hop performers are touting it. Yes, it’s a sign of the times that we’re no longer in a Cristal economy, but a Moscato one. Here’s a taste of the hip hop lyrics from Ab-Soul: When things get hard to swallow / We need a bottle of moscato. And Trey Songz’ “I Invented Sex” (wherein he also admits to drinking “Ace“: It’s a celebration / Clap clap bravo. / Lobster and shrimp and a glass of moscato / finish the whole bottle.

I’ve recommended Moscato d’Asti as perhaps the ultimate wine for newbies so it doesn’t surprise me that it has taken off, presumably poaching market share from white zinfandel. But good moscatos from Piedmont producers such as La Spinetta or Elio Perrone, with acidity undergirding sweetness, are not the wines driving this lastest trend. But that’s fine. I adopt a live and let drink approach–if this is a “gateway” wine then so be it. Maybe next they will discover Riesling.

What do you make of this moscato madness–a good thing or the next incarnation of Nasty Spumante?

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18 Responses to “Moscato di Nasty?”

  1. I have used Moscato several times as a way to introduce wine to friends that do not know much about wine or have opinions based on drinking something too “harsh” for a beginner. I believe it is a better intro than white zinfadel and leads fairly quickly, as you stated, to Riesling then other whites on the way to reds. From the picture it seems it may be a fad rather than a trend. But – what the heck do I know!

  2. You said it all with: ‘sales have almost doubled…albeit off a small base’. Marketing gurus love stuff like that. Doubled!! Wow! Now lets lead the public around by the nose and make them think they are not in the ‘in crowd’ if they don’t get on the bandwagon. Geepers, North America is just staring to get over the blight of white Zinfandel and now, gag me out, Moscato. Ugh!

  3. Unlike White Zin, they are not taking a potentially good grape source and making something unpleasant out of it. I guess the Muscatel crowd can claim to be going upscale.
    I heard this piece about it on NPR. And coincidentally on the same day ’30 Rock’ had a rerun of the episode where Jack turned out a bubbly from his vineyard in North Fork on Long Island. It turned out to be near poisonous and they managed to get some hip hop endorsement for it as the next drink of choice. The timing was kind of amazing.

  4. Quizicat – Yes, I linked to the NPR story above. Funny, I missed that 30 Rock episode. Turns out it was season 1, episode 16 for those who are interested:

    Chuck – Yes, the rapid growth does seem faddish. It’s not as if moscato is new the way white zin was when the Trincheros “discovered” it.

    Wilf – it seems you detect a whiff of marketing…And yes, $30 million in sales is a tiny drop in the vat for Gallo.

  5. Wait, I just found another synopsis of the 30 Rock ep:

    In “The Source Awards,” he started his own winery “Donaghy Estates” after purchasing a vineyard on the north fork of Long Island. Despite the wine being reviewed in Robert Parker’s Wine Newsletter as tasting like “the urine of Satan after a hefty portion of asparagus,” he attempted to market it to the hip-hop community as a replacement for Cristal champagne.

    That would surely have been Parker’s best ever tasting note! How many points?!?

  6. I accidentally stumbled on Barefoot moscato last year and its great, especially for people who prefer sweeter drinks. By the way, in the song by “I Invented Sex” by Trey Songz, Drake actually sings the lyrics “lobster and shrimp and a glass of moscato.”

  7. Hi Andrea – Thanks for the clarification. I had seen the lyrics in Drake’s song and seen that the two are friends but hadn’t realized it was actually Drake performing.

    Any thoughts on how/why the moscato came to figure in the lyrics?

  8. I’m a total proponent of moscato, as long as it doesn’t become a “you can drink this with anything” wine (though I do think it goes well with a lot of things)

    A trey/drake lover, I’m betting it ended up in the song thanks to the rhyming–the Young Money crowd probably drake $6 moscato before they made it big, but i’m guessing they have Cristal on tap these days

    totally excited to be for your class at NYU btw

  9. I think moscato is the new trend. It pops up in a number of other recent hip hop songs including Waka Flocka’s “No Hands” in the first verse.

  10. i’ve had a lot of people tell me they don’t really drink wine, but they do like moscato. i can’t say if it will last, but i can say that anticdotal evidence supports marketing research

  11. Back in the 1980’s I worked for a distributor that offered some Northern Italian wines. Among those wines were a very good Moscato. Back then the retail was about 5.99 so you can imagine what the wholesale price was.

    When it is made well it is a pleasant wine. I can write this and also say that I am not much of a white wine drinker at all let alone a Pop-wine drinker.
    The bottlom line is that people are drinking wine they will either go on to other types or they will go back to whatever they were drinking.

    Many years ago I went through a snob stage. As I learned more about wine and lots of other things in life, I came to realize that there are lots of things that people like and for different reasons. I am fine with that.
    A nasty wine is a poorly made wine. They come in all colors and flavors. Some folks make wine for a fast buck and some make wine because it expresses something about the world they live in and that reflect back on them.

  12. I’m attending a presentation right now and Danny Brager of Nielsen says that Moscato is, indeed, taking market share from white zin. He says it may overtake sauvignon blanc at He also described the drinker as “much younger, more female, non-white, and lower income.” Perhaps even those who are new to wine.

    A representative from a producer told me that there’s a real scramble for Moscato grapes now, whether from California, Italy, or Argentina. This person also said that the demographics are changing as the category grows rapidly, but generally are similar to Brager’s view.

    Laura – you’re in the class? Great! Look forward to meeting you!

  13. Where are the cute guys in Barefoot boxers?

  14. Barefoot Moscato! With that level of RS and using every drop of juice possible, I can only imagine the hangover.

  15. I think this is a wonderful thing! I personally don’t drink the sweet stuff but it’s a beautiful thing to see more and more people getting their feet wet in the wine industry. It’s only a matter of time before all of those people that are hooked on Moscato are ready to try something different. The more people we have drinking wine in this country the better!

  16. I guess everyone has to start somewhere! Better moscato than alco-pops

  17. I don’t much care for sweet wines. I once tried Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
    which is supposed to be a great sweet wine, but I didn’t like it at all. There is, however, something for everyone.

  18. […] only about five years late on this. But, thanks to site reader Quizicat drawing a parallel to our recent discussion of moscato, I’ve learned that I missed an episode of “30 Rock” where wine featured […]


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