Italian Indigenous Varieties: Moscato Bianco

This week’s indigenous variety is Moscato Bianco. It grows throughout the Mediterranean and was likely brought to Italy by the Greeks. It is closely related to the grape the Romans called Uva Apiana. It grows throughout Italy and can be found in the DOCS from Asti, Loazzolo, Valle d’Aosta, Colli Euganei, Colli Piacentini, Moscadello di Montalcino,Moscato di Trani, Mocato di Noto,Moscato di Siracusa, Moscato di Cagliari,Moscato di Sardegna,and Moscato di Sorso-Sennori, among other wines.

As it grows throughout Italy in different soils and meso-climates, the wines it produces can go from sparkling to fortified wines. Often in the Southern parts of the country it will be made into what are known as vini liquorosi. It’s a grape with a thin skin and is sensitive to various parasites but it maintains itself well both in the cold weather and in very hot climes. It prefers calcareous soils to those with clay and suffers with too much humidity.

This wine, Moscato dello Zucco from Cusumano in Sicily, is among my favorites. The drying of these grapes takes place in the cellar until they are raisined by 50% of their weight. After a soft pressing and 12 hours’ static decanting, the must ferments in oak caratelli (small barrels), where it remains until bottling. I am a sweet wine fan so this was right up my alley with waxy, almond notes and hints of orange and pears. It also had great acidity. Diego Cusumano is a lovely man and I’ve had the occasion to sit down with him and taste a number of their family’s wines. Always cheery and tan, he seems the essence of Sicily to me.

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