Moscato has become a huge hit in the US wine market, it is gaining market share at a rate far exceeding any other grape according to industry statistics. I jumped on that bandwagon with my own story to be published in June’s Long Island Pulse, but then the dirty little secret side of the wine industry poked it’s head into the story. And as jaded as I have become as a long-time industry insider, I was taken by surprise by the level of mockery being made at Moscato’s expense! It seems that some believe that the TTB has not recognized Moscato as the Italian translation of Muscat. So given that premise, there are some rumors about the amount of Muscat planted in California versus the amount produced not being equal. A post on Wineeconomist.com by an employee at a Custom Crush facility recently justified the amount of Moscato being produced as a function of the TTB not recognizing Moscato as Muscat. Due to this bit of information he claims that wines labeled Moscato don’t need meet the USA standards for wines labeled by grape. Translation = The Moscato produced in America might only have a tiny bit of Muscat in the wine, the rest could be anything.
Keep in mind that when looking at an Italian wine label, if there are two names separated by di or d’, the name in front is the grape or in some cases the wine. The name after the di (d’) is the place. For Moscato d’Asti, the grape is Moscato, the place Asti. Just the same as Barbera d’Asti or Dolcetto d’Asti. Yet here in America we can’t produce a Barbera or Dolcetto from less than 75% of the labeled grape. Why the exception for Moscato? My initial guess was an oops by the TTB. But after a kind reply from Ms. Berry of the Regulations & Rulings Division of the TTB, I saw that indeed Moscato is considered the same as Muscat and therefore must contain at least 75% Muscat (any of them – there are quite a few.) Find the ruling here.
Below is the post that got my ‘ire’ about what is in Moscato produced in California…
“Pinot Grigio is an approved name as is Pinot Noir(nero) There is a Moscato Greco which is actually Malvasia Bianca and there are the various Muscats but there is no Moscato by itself, so… And Yes, there is not much that is sane regarding the TTB so no surprise there. The fact is, we know these varieties as Muscat Canelli, Muscat of Alexandria etc. There is no “bad” on those of us in the industry or on the TTB because we are not doing it the way you think it should be done.”
The original comments can be found here.
Moscato d’Asti is a lightly sparkling wine with lower alcohol levels (5-9%) that comes from the area just above Alba (home of Barolo & Barbaresco) in Northern Italy. I have been a big fan for several decades and have poured one by the glass at most restaurants I have been involved with.
I guess it is fine for Gallo to sue the Consozio Chianti Classico for using a black rooster as their logo and calling it the Gallo Nero. Gallo is Italian for rooster, but not fine for Moscato d’Asti to sue producers in the US for using the term Moscato on wines that don’t meet the legal regulations for that grape.
Here is another blog post from a winemaker in Clarksburg, Ca about Moscato that is worth a read.