One of the minor hazards of being a wine writer is the frequency of requests from friends and family for advice on selecting wines for help in selecting wines. A few weeks ago I got a call from an old friend with an interesting wine question: She wanted me to recommend a few good Israeli Moscatos.
Moscato d’Asti — a popular Italian wine made from what may be the world’s oldest cultivated wine grape, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains — is a light-bodied, light-colored, lightly effervescent, sweet white wine, which typically has melon and apricot flavors and aromas. In the last decade it has become one of the most popular varietal kosher wines in the United States.
The popularity of Moscato d’Asti among kosher consumers has led a growing number of Israeli wineries to start to produce their own Moscato d’Asti-style wines, with varying degrees of success.
As Moscato — whether made in the Italian town of Asti, or in the Israeli town of Rishon Le Zion — can be a particularly refreshing wine on a hot summer’s day, and because I wanted to be able to answer my friend’s question, it seemed like a good time to take a look at Israeli Moscatos. So for this month’s Fruit of the Vine I tasted five Israeli Moscatos, all of which were good, and any of which would make for good summer drinking.
Perhaps the best wine in the tasting was Teperberg’s 2010 Moscato. Made from Muscat of Alexandria grapes (a close cousin to Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) grown in the Judean Lowlands, this crisp, straw colored, slightly effervescent, sweet wine has flavors and aromas of lychee, peach and cantaloupe, with strong citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit. This is a well-structured wine, which has enough acidity to balance its sweetness. (Please note that this wine will first be released in early July.)
Also quite good was Carmel’s Moscato di Carmel 2010. This sweet, effervescent, straw colored wine was made from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grown in the Samson region of Israel. Look for a nose of apricots and lychees, with a whiff of wildflowers, and flavors of peach, lychee, apricots and lemons, with a nice bit of honey on the finish. This wine should be consumed within the next year.
Moscato is a versatile wine, which can be enjoyed in a traditional wine glass, or, as it is popularly enjoyed in Italy, in a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Personally, one of my favorite ways to serve Moscato is in wine-based cocktails, such as the Moscato Cobbler (see recipe below). Moscato is a wine meant to be drunk in its extreme youth, and one should never purchased bottles older than one year beyond vintage. So the next time you’re in the mood for a bit of frivolous fun on a hot summer’s day, pick up a bottle of Israeli Moscato. n
The Moscato Cobbler:
The Sherry Cobbler, a truly refreshing concoction of sherry, sugar and fruit, was one of the most popular mixed drinks in Antebellum America. Replacing the Sherry with Moscato makes for a nice modern twist on this American classic:
½ cup Moscato
2 slices orange of an orange
Small berries in season (raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and blueberries are all good choices)
Put the Moscato, one orange slice, and about seven or eight berries into a cocktail shaker, with several ice cubes. Shake well, allowing the ice to break open the berries. Then strain it into a crushed ice-filled (8-10 ounce) highball glass. Garnish with the second orange slice and additional berries, and serve with a straw.
To make a Sherry Cobbler, follow the directions above, except substitute ½ cup of Tio Pepe Kosher Fino Sherry and 2 tsp. of super-fine sugar for the Moscato.
The Jewish Week Guide to Kosher Israeli Moscato
Wine Price Where Available
Teperberg, Moscato, Judean Lowlands, 2010: Straw colored, and slightly effervescent, this sweet wine has flavors and aromas of lychee, peach and cantaloupe, with strong citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit. Score B $10.99-$11.99 This wine will first be released the first week of September.
Carmel, Moscato di Carmel, Samson, 2010: This sweet, effervescent, straw-colored wine has a nose of apricots and lychees, with a whiff of wildflowers, and flavors of peach, lychee, apricots and lemons, with a nice bit of honey on the finish. Score B $8.99 Shoppers Vineyard
875 Bloomfield Ave. (Clifton, N.J.)
Golan, Moscato, Golan Heights 2010: With a rich sweetness, this straw-colored wine has flavors and aromas of honeysuckle, citrus, nutmeg, and wildflowers. Although enjoyable, the wine does not have quite enough acid to balance its sweetness. Score B $13.99 Linwood Wine Company
102 Linwood Plaza (Fort Lee, N.J.)
Phone: (201) 944-5504
Gamla, Moscato, Samson, 2010: This bubbly, light straw-colored wine has flavors and aromas of apricots, honeysuckle, honey, and peaches. The wine is perhaps a bit too syrupy on the finish. Score B $8.95
Skyview Wine and Liquors
5681 Riverdale Ave. (Riverdale)
Carmel, Young, Moscato, Samson, 2010: Lightly effervescent, this simple, sweet, straw-colored wine has flavors and aromas of honey, and lychees. The wine is marred by a lack of acid. Score B/B- $9.99 Liquors Galore
1212 Ave. J (Brooklyn)
Wines are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.