Meet the Whites: Moscato


Moscato d'Asti

A couple New Years’ ago I walked into our local ABC Liquors and asked for something sparkling that wasn’t Brut. The very helpful clerk brought me back to the Italian imports section and pointed out several possible wines, one of which was a Moscato d’Asti, with which we happily rung in the new year. Since then it’s gone from the back of the store to boxes in the aisles of Wal-Mart, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be dismissed out of hand.

It’s like the elephant in the room, these days: Moscato has become a major player in accessible wine, even rappers think so.

Really? Drake and Diddy love it, so now it’s credible? At least that’s how NPR seemed to spin it/suggest back in January. *shudder*

Without sounding overly-hipster about it (because I am nothing like a hipster in any other sense), that last bit is almost enough to make me stop drinking it. Almost, but not quite.

Originally a dessert wine, Moscato has become much more mainstream. A favorite among bloggers (or maybe just well-marketed), and it’s even gotten my sister-in-law to try wine, so as a gateway white I’ll gladly accept it over the White Zinfandel that used to hold the title.

We’ve never been wine snobs, here, and always love a bargain. Sideways meant our beloved Pinot Noir was easier to find,  and the same goes for Moscato and it’s pop-culture love affair.

Since it IS sweet, it’s a perfect pairing for desserts, but also goes well with rich cream sauces, citrus and even spicy dishes, too. While I prefer to sip it over the course of an evening, cooking is another option to use up any leftovers. I probably wouldn’t put it in my risotto if I had another option (though I’ve used sweet wines in risotto before, with some interesting results), but a splash into a dessert sauce or as a vinaigrette with olive oil and lemon, I think that could be very nice.

And just so you know, that very affordable Bella Bole’ Moscato d’Asti goes fabulously with Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. I assure you, it was a very thorough investigation.

Meet the Whites: Chardonnay

Chardonnay from Waggy Tail Winery

Another shout out to Waggy Tail Winery!

Some would consider my not covering Chardonnay first heresy–I say it made just plain good sense. Chardonnay is something a lot of people drink because they recognize the name, not because they necessarily like it. It’s on every wine list and every hotel and restaurant has their house white which is probably 9 times out of 10 a Chardonnay.

That said, there’s a reason it’s so popular to begin with. Chardonnay has a lot going for it in a fresh, crisp way with a strong combination of flavors from lemon and apple to melon and pineapple. It’s often described as having a buttery texture from the malolactic fermentation.

And then there’s the oak.

I usually steer clear of Chardonnay because I dislike tasting the barrel it was aged in. Of course, not all Chardonnay’s are heavy on the oak, but so many run of the mill ones are (despite the rise in oak barrel costs–some use oak chips, instead) that it’sturned me off in general. That said, Chardonnay’s bossier flavors do work well in many menu situations.

Chardonnay is still suited towards fish, chicken and vegetables (which is why, so I’ve read, it became so ubiquitous in California during the health-crazed 80s), but not being a shy violet it can stand up to richer, spicier foods and buttery sauces. You could even pair it with a nice veal and be perfectly content.

Unlike the last two whites (Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc) which were best enjoyed within a year of purchase, a Chardonnay from a reputable winery can be aged 3 to 8 years and still be wonderful to drink. Of course, this doesn’t mean sitting it on the rack in your kitchen where the temperature fluctuates wildly. Not that you have to build your own cellar (though I suppose you could), but investing in a good wine cooler would be a sure-fired way to keep your investment from turning into vinegar.

Meet the Whites: Sauvignon Blanc


Savvy Savignon Bark from Waggy Tails Whinery

Last week we talked light-and-crisp Pinot Grigio and this week we’re only taking a half-step up, really, with Sauvignon Blanc.

One of the major white wine grapes, Sauvignon Blanc can be found bottled as the stand-alone varietal (sometimes labeled Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire Valley of France, or Fumé Blanc from certain California bottlers) or blended into other wines, such as the sweet dessert wine, Sauterne.

I say it’s only a half-step up because, depending on the bottle, it can fall into the light-bodied category or medium. It’s still a super-safe wine for folks who aren’t sure what to drink, mostly because it’s not oak-aged but in rare cases so doesn’t have that woodsy quality that so many folks (including myself) dislike about Chardonnay.

While France is it’s native home, California produces fine Sauvignon Blancs, and I’ve heard that New Zealand does fabulous things with them, too.

What you’re looking for in a Sauvignon Blanc is a pale color and a fresh green grass or grapefruit aroma. Some will have a buttery or creamy flavor to them, maybe vanilla, but overall pleasing to most palates and with most foods.

Any sort of poultry or seafood pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc and it’s great with goat cheese, smoked cheeses, fruits and vegetables. In doubt about what to serve at your next cocktail hour? Pick up some bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and worry no more.

Now, you might notice the label on this week’s picture features a Basset Hound. That bottle isn’t Sauvignon Blanc–it’s Savvy Savignon Bark, from “Waggy Tail Whinery”. This Sauvignon Blanc comes from Chile by way of the Gainesville-based Suncoast Basset Rescue, and a portion of the proceeds go to help fund the fostering and placement of hounds waiting on their forever home.