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Apr 16, 2013 07:17 AM

Muscat drives US wine sales to new heights -- more popular than Sauvignon Blanc

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  1. That's Moscato, Jason.

    Muscat is something we use to make vin doux down here.

    12 Replies
    1. re: collioure

      Yes, and what grape is "Moscato" made from? Which Muscat variety is used in making Muscat de Rivesaltes? versus Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise? versus Sutter Home "Moscato"? (That is the label used to illustrate the Decanter article.)

      CASS (California Agricultural Statistics Service) tracks three different Muscat grapes: Muscat Blanc (aka Muscat Blanc à petits grains, Muscat Canelli, etc.), Muscat of Alexandria, and Orange Muscat. But there is also Muscat Noir à petits grains (the dark-skinned variant of Muscat Blanc), Muscat Ottonel, Black Muscat (aka Muscat Hamburg), and others . . .

      In California, Muscat Blanc accounts for 2,190 acres/886.25 hectares (2011 figures); Muscat of Alexandria, 3,842 ac./1,554.80 ha; and Orange Muscat, a mere 290 acres/117.36 ha.

      1. re: zin1953

        27 CFR 4.28 (c) Muscat or Moscato. An American wine which derives at least 75 percent of its volume from any Muscat grape source.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Robert? It's not my fault that the ATF / TTTB doesn't follow their own definitions . . .

          You can't put "Pinot" on a label for "an American wine which derives at least 75 percent of its volume from any Pinot grape source" (Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Pinot Meunier, Pinot St. George);

          You can't put "Sauvignon" for "an American wine which derives at least 75 percent of its volume from any Sauvignon grape source" (Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Musque, Sauvignon Vert, Cabernet Sauvignon);

          You can't put "Cabernet" for "an American wine which derives at least 75 percent of its volume from any Cabernet grape source" (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Pfeffer, Ruby Cabernet, Cabernet Dorsa, Cabernet Mitos)

          . . . so why can you use "Muscat or Moscato" for "an American wine which derives at least 75 percent of its volume from any Muscat grape source"?

          (Because TTTB says you can! Yes, I know. But explain it to me logically . . . )

          And I'm pretty darned sure you can't use "Moscato" if you're using Orange Muscat or Black Muscat . . .

        2. re: zin1953

          Jason, I don't what you're doing with this grape in California, but for me Moscato means that delightful frizzante from Italy, and Muscat, either the vin doux here or the dry bottlings that I find less interesting.

          1. re: collioure

            No offense, but since the post focuses on US sales, I'm not sure it's really worth discussing what's going on in Italy and/or Roussillon in *this* thread. Perhaps you can start a Muscat-based discussion of your own.

            It's not worth having Robert repeat himself yet again . . .

            1. re: collioure

              I see more Italian Muscats at US supermarkets than I used to, though some or most might be made for export.

              The US sales figures include imported wines. It would be interesting to see a regional breakdown of the Muscat / Moscato sales in 2011 and 2012.


            2. re: zin1953

              Reviewing this again, I think I was on the right track the first time, Jason. The article is headlined “Moscato” and notes “lightly sparkling wines,” and you titled this blog with “Muscat.”

              I always understood the grape variety to be the same (even though I joked about it). Heretofore Muscato generally referred to the Italian-styled frizzante - and that is what the USA sales buzz is about, and Muscat to a still wine.


              1. re: collioure

                You can believe what you wish . . .

                1. re: zin1953

                  I will. Sounds like it's a bit like the new syrupy White Zin.

                  In any case I hope it gets more people interested in drinking wine.

                2. re: collioure

                  The Decanter article is based on this Wine Institute press release:


                  Here they're talking about total US sales of all Muscat-based wines: "The largest percentage gains were Muscat/Moscato, up 33% in volume with 6% market share ..."

                  "Moscato" on an Italian wine label refers to one of a number of Muscat varieties depending on what else is on the label. Some are sparking, some are not.

                  On the label of an American wine, "Moscato," or "Muscat" without further qualification to identify a specific approved variety, means at least 75% any Muscat varieties.


                  Federally approved Muscat grape varieties in the US are Black Muscat, Canada Muscat, Early Muscat, Golden Muscat, Muscat blanc, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Hamburg, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Ottonel, New York Muscat, Orange Muscat, and Valvin Muscat.


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    For what it's worth, Sutter Home offers 5 muscat-based wines, still and sparkling, white, pink, and red (a merlot blend). They're soft drinks for a cocktail generation, today's lambrusco, and no accident that SH gives recipes for fruity moscato cocktails for each wine. On any critical or comparative level, I think it makes little sense and rewards little to worry about which muscat variety (or varieties) is involved in these popular versions, or how the volume figures might account for things like, say, a Moscato Passito from Pantelleria or a Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois or a dry- vinified muscat from Portugal. Those sales can't be but marginal. More comparable would be trends in Moscato d'Asti figures--I think SH and others have succeeded in making moscato an everyday, multi-occasion beverage, somewhere between a sweet fruit cocktail and an anonymous pinot grigio. That's a big and thirsty market.

            3. This amazes me, but then, what do I know?


              1 Reply
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Well . .. YEAH! You and me both!!!

              2. I noticed a couple in my local wine shop. Asked the proprietor. He said that it's on Olive Garden's wine list, so he gets requests. Maybe that explains something.

                And to be honest, I've had a couple dry ones from CA that were pretty good

                1. <Moscato drives US wine sales to new heights -- more popular than Sauvignon Blanc>
                  And why would anyone here be surprised? Americans LOVE their sweet beverages, and Moscato is sweet. Watching people order Moscato with their dinner in a fine restaurant is almost as nauseating (for lack of a more descriptive word) as watching them order Coke in a fine restaurant.

                  And if the rappers say it's good, why, it must be, riiiiight.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ChefJune

                    But there are a few good, dry CA muscats: La Sirena Moscato Azul is very sophisticated. I also like Shadow Mountain. I'm sure there are others. Seriously, try them.

                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                      Navarro makes a great dry Muscat Blanc, though not enough of it to affect any statistics.

                      A friend brought over a 2010 Claiborne & Churchill "Dry Muscat" the other night, but despite the label it was too sweet (per the tech sheet 0.8%) to go well with dinner. Weird marketing choice.

                  2. It sounds utterly disgusting, but with luck its quaffers will grow out of it.

                    I don't think all Americans love sweet crap; there are many fine, dry wines made in the US, and good cheap ones.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: lagatta

                      <I don't think all Americans love sweet crap;> I don't think so, either, but there certainly are enough of them that Yellow Tail adds sugar for the US market, and all these (what I call) gimmicky wines like "Skinny Girl" and Arbor Mist (not to mention White Zinfandel) sell briskly.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        Not that I've ever bought Yellow Tail, but I have had a glass or two of it when friends happened to buy it for a potluck party. Hope they don't add sugar for the Canadian market!

                        I'd be very interested in those dry muscats. I've had a dry (but very floral) Portuguese muscat; very intriguing but I still don't quite know what to pair it with.

                        Skinny Girl is terrifying indeed. I read about it in the wine column of the Globe and Mail, a major Canadian newspaper.

                        1. re: lagatta

                          I'm sure there are those here who will insist that dry Muscat is a food wine, but I have always thought of it as an aperitif.

                          A little is produced here in Roussillon, but I do not buy it.

                          1. re: lagatta

                            I like dry Muscat with the same sorts of things I like with dry Gewürztraminer.