Fizzy wine tastes fine

Getting to know Moscato d'Asti

Moscato d’Asti is fizzy, sweet and easy to like. But don’t let that throw you.

Unlike its better-known cousin, Asti Spumanti, its sweetness is delicate and the fizz is refined.

“The best ones taste like fresh, ripe fruit,” says Wally’s Wine and Spirits partner Christian Navarro. “It’s almost like soda pop for big kids.”

That might explain why Silverlake Wine partner Randy Clement says, “A lot of kids we card are picking out Moscato.” And Wally’s Moscato sales have increased by 40% in the last 18 months.

Moscato also stands out among dessert wines. It’s light, unlike sherry; it’s low in alcohol, unlike port; and, unlike Sauternes, it peaks young and won’t max out your Gold Card.

However, its greatest strength may be that it’s a sure thing. “If I have a problem table,” says Jay Perrin, general manager and wine director at Campanile, “where things have gone wrong all night, one of the things I’ll do is pop a bottle of Moscato, and it changes everything.”

Variety Weekend sampled a half-dozen bottles; these were the top three favorites.

Braida 2005 ($18)
Delicate, with fine bubbles and balancing acid. Great minerality. Like biting a fresh green apple.

Nivole Chiarlo 2005 ($21)
An atypical, darker-style moscato. Stewed fruit, mushrooms and cheese on the palate.

Tinterro Sori Gramella 2005 ($11.50)
Very light color. Light nose, but powerful bubbles. Crisp and easy to like.

Tasters: Clement, Navarro and Perrin.