Day 280 – National Moscato Day

I don’t think I have ever tasted Moscato until very recently, like within the last six weeks. Moscato is a sweet, white wine that hails from Italy. It is made from the Muscat grape, which is a grape that can also be enjoyed as a table grape and can be used for making raisins. The grape has a high level of sugar that gives the Moscato wine its sweetness and is why it has become popular in recent years. It is actually one of the wines offered at the Newport Vineyards which is why it came in to my life so recently. As part of our training, we have to taste each wine so we get an idea of what we are talking about. The Moscato is pretty popular with customers, although it tends to be too sweet for the staff. I didn’t think it was bad however. It was definitely sweet, but easily drinkable. I just wouldn’t want a lot of it. That was my first Moscato taste. Since that initial tasting, I’ve poured a bunch of it and I kind of give guests the same spiel every time I pour it: “This is the sweetest of our white wines; nice and light. You should taste some citrus hints in there and some honeydew melon.”

Today I could have purchased a bottle of the Newport Vineyard Moscato but I wasn’t working and I forgot to pick it up yesterday. I didn’t want to go in on my day off, so I opted to buy one at the package store. It was easier plus I got to check out some of the other options for Mosacto out there. I had an appointment in Warwick today so on my way back, I stopped in Fall River to browse the Moscato. That seems like an odd course of action, but when I was in Warwick, I didn’t see any liquor stores in my travels so I figured I would just get some one the way home and because I drive through Fall River to get to Aquidneck Island, I made the quick stop. There is a store right off the exit that I will sometimes go to which has a bigger selection than the local package store and it tends to be a bit cheaper. When I was there, I looked around at the signs atop the aisles to find one that said “Moscato” but no such luck. Then I had to go on my Moscato hunt creeping through the maze of bottles that filled the store like Elmer Fudd looking for wabbits. It actually didn’t take too long. There was whole section of cheap wines that had their fair share of Moscato. I picked up a bottle that was $6.99, but then as I looked around the store, I found a section with more Moscato and the wines here seemed to be a little less cheap. I ended up picking up a bottle of Bartenura Moscato for about $12 which was from Italy and came in a fancy blue bottle. When I got home, because it was Happy Hour, I got ready to pour myself and Lola a glass.

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Lola had never heard of Moscato so I thought I would take this opportunity to use my newly learned skills as a wine bartender and show her the finer points. So before I poured us full glasses, I poured us a little tasting. I told her the first thing you do is hold it up to the light, so you can look at the color of the wine. White wines will get more golden as they age so as you look at the color, you are seeing how bright it is and in turn, how it has aged. Then you should gently swirl the wine in tiny circles on a flat surface for 10 to 20 seconds allowing oxygen to penetrate the wine. This aerates the wine and releases vapors, evaporating from the sides of the glass, for you to smell. As the wine coats the sides of the glass, it releases its bouquet. Then you sniff the wine and the bouquet it is emitting. You stick your nose right into the glass. 80% of our sense of taste comes from smell, so this is where you are going to get your first hints of what the wine will taste like. Then you just have to start figuring out what you are tasting. My taste buds work in an “I like it” and an “I don’t like it” fashion. I don’t often get into the details, although this quest has pushed me identify tastes more than I usually do. Lola has really sharp tastebuds and can pick out the slightest hints of flavor in whatever we are tasting. The Moscato smelled sweet with hints of apple, maybe some pear in there too. That’s the best we could come up with.

The next step is sipping the wine and by the time I explained sipping was next, Lola had taken a gulp. I was losing her interest. But in truth, she didn’t understand the dance of the tasting. When you take your first sip, you are still trying to figure out what the wine is all about so when you sip, you should allow the wine to spread across your tongue from front to back and side to side before swallowing. You can also slurp some air through puckered lips while you take your sip which further aerates the wine and releases more flavor and aromas. This is not an easy step and take some practice, but it makes you feel like a connoisseur when you slurp with confidence. When you are tasting you should stay aware of what is happening with your tastebuds. For instance, the tip of the tongue will detect sweetness while the inner sides of your tongue will detect sourness and/or acidity. The outer sides of the tongue detects saltiness. We still tried to figure out what was there which is a hard game to play. I have a wine tasting aroma wheel which is like a cheat sheet for what you may taste. So even though we had this out as reference, we still had a tough time nailing down exactly what was there. Naturally, because we are silly, we decided it had a nice wet dog/musty cardboard finish in an otherwise cat pee essence. In truth, it was sweet and the label on the bottle said it had, “lingering pear, tangerine, nectar and melon flavors on the finish.” We weren’t too far off base.

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There was a slight fizz to the wine too which was a nice addition and it made it more like a dessert wine. As I checked the Bartenura website now, they say it is perfect with dessert or fresh fruit, or sipping poolside, but when I was out on my errands yesterday, I did a general search on what Moscato pairs well with and they suggested salads. Earlier in the day I saw a recipe for a Chicken Gyro Salad which looked really good and refreshing. I decided that would be a good dinner for tonight, so I got in all the supplies. I opted for a store bought tzatziki sauce just to make it easy on myself, but all in all, it was really easy. It came out looking nice too.

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The salad did indeed pair well with the Moscato. The sweetness of the wine and the nice crisp, clean flavor of the fresh veggies along with the mix of the yogurt dill sauce was perfect. However I learned something about Lola tonight. She’s not a huge fan of Greek food, at least in this version. Actually she is not a fan of feta cheese or of dill and this salad had plenty of both. So it was kind of a miss for Lola, but I really enjoyed it. Thankfully we had some mac and cheese in house as a fallback plan and that also paired delightfully with the Moscato. It was a pretty nice celebration.

Part of the excitement of this whole quest has been what I am learning. Not only am I learning about new food and new beverages, I am giving myself a history lesson and just broadening my knowledge. Today’s celebration allowed me to take some knowledge that I recently acquired and apply it towards the quest (and hopefully impressing Lola in the process). I’ve always known that I like trivia and facts, but discovering that joy of learning new things (and retaining the info) was another surprise result of this whole undertaking. It helps me discover more about whatever it is I’m celebrating and makes me enjoy it even more. That’s what I learned today and it was a lesson that came with a nice sweet finish. There’s so much around us to discover and learn about, and that’s one of the joys of celebrating every day. It’s especially nice when it comes with hints of noble rot and tropical flavors too.  Cheers!

Next Up: National Clean Up Your Room Day

Sources: Vinepair.com and WhatsCookingAmerica.net. Wheel from WineFolly.com

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