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Yo! Moscato!

May 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Wine

I’ve been hearing buzz that Moscato is the new “it” grape from several sources so I did a little research, and since hip-hop plays into this, I think I have some relative authority here: I live in downtown Oakland. Five years ago Kanye West decided he liked it and said so on MTV. Then Lil’ Kim sang, “Still over in Brazil/Sipping moscato/You must have forgot though/So I’ma take it back to the block, yo.”

Back to the block, indeed. Moscato achieved a kind of underground popularity with the hip-hop crowd. I have young hip-hop friends who think it’s cool strictly because their rock heroes are singing about it. Kendrick Lamar, a rapper from Compton, has a new disc (Feb. 2011) called “Moscato”, and on this website a reviewer writes: While I may blame Aubrey Graham for introducing Moscato to the national conscious and nobody really looking into it as a wine and nothing more, I still don’t blame anyone for actually partaking of the stuff. It’s rather smooth and if placed in the right setting and right mood, it’s a real jump starter.

Aubrey Graham is a Grammy-nominated Canadian recording artist and actor who goes by the name Drake. When he sang this line last year: “It’s a celebration/ clap clap bravo/ lobster & shrimp & a glass of moscato…finish the whole bottle”, the social media sphere lit up with Moscato fever. What happens in hip-hop doesn’t always stay in hip-hop. Moscato burst from the streets and into popular consciousness, not only in the States, but abroad. From the Jerusalem Post, 5/12/11: “The new popular product of the 21st century is Moscato…”. From The Republic, out of Columbus, Indiana: “Now, suddenly and surprisingly, [Muscats] are generating buzz. Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers in Fresno, Calif., a marketing cooperative representing more than 500 farmers in the state, reported that new plantings of muscat are surging.”

Apparently so. I had lunch the other day with a major grower who told me his company is budding vines over to Moscato. This mommy blog recommended a sweet Italian sparkling Moscato rosé for Mother’s Day, reminding us that slightly sweet bubblies often appeal to women. As a sociological phenomenon, it’s interesting to see a wine wavelet arise in the hip-hop community and spill over to the general community. It may even be unprecedented.

But is there a gigantic Moscato boom? Is it the next Pinot Grigio? I don’t think so. I’m not exactly getting a ton of Muscat, or Moscato, or Orange Muscat, or anything from that family sent to me for review. By far the majority of what I taste is late harvest sweet dessert wine; Williams Selyem’s is the best, but EOS’s Tears of Dew is always a contender. (Bill Foley bought it last November, and I hope he continues to produce it.) So I don’t think the premium wine market is seeing a burst of Muscat Fever.

Where I suspect the growth is happening is in the popularly priced market. Barefoot, Flipflop, Fetzer, Woodbridge, Redtree, Coastal Ridge, Ca’ Momi and others all have sent me Moscatos lately, with prices hovering just below ten bucks suggested retail (which means you’ll find them in big chains for even less than that). They’re all clean, off-dry and crisp, the scores are in the 85 point range, and I’ve given a lot of them Best Buys. If there’s Moscato action, that’s where it is.

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