Off all of the Italian wine success stories, Moscato d’Asti seems like it should be the most unlikely. After all, the wine has traditionally been used as little more than a palate cleanser and worker’s wine since it was first recognized back in the later 19th century. However, seeing it as that really does do very little justice to a wine that, despite its low alcohol volume, has maintained a startling level of consistent popularity that has not only endured to the modern era, but has actually increased in more recent years.
Since the turn of the millennium, Moscato d’Asti has exploded in popularity in the United States, to the point where over 27 million bottles of the wine are produced annually in Italy, with 80 percent of them going to the US. It’s sparked an enormous spurt of production of the wine, with more new producers hopping on board on a regular basis, but the reasoning behind this surge in popularity is a little murkier.
Cheap and Cheerful
When looking for reasons why Moscato d’Asti has become such a major drink in the United States, the price is always the first point of call. With the average bottle retailing at somewhere between the $10 and $20 range, it is one of the most accessible Italian wines out there, even when importing costs are taken into account.
As such, it should come as no surprise that the majority of the wine’s popularity comes from the younger generations. College students and young professionals, in particular, have been flocking to Moscato d’Asti in droves because of the level of quality received for the low price, making it the drink of choice for people who are looking to enjoy some alcohol without burning too big a hole in their wallets.
Of course, we shouldn’t take the low price traditionally attached to Moscato d’Asti as an indicator of its quality. Though weaker than most wines when it comes to alcohol content, the wines do have a refreshing fizz and flavour to them that is an absolute pleasure, especially on those hot lazy days when all you want to do is laze around in the sun.
The low alcohol content also lends itself well to another of the potential reasons for Moscato d’Asti’s popularity.
One of the biggest barriers to face the wine industry, even in the modern age, is accessibility. Prices are one thing, but even the simplest of Italian wines tend to carry with them a complexity and deep tradition that needs to be appreciated to get the most out of the drink.
Now we aren’t going to claim that Moscato d’Asti is without tradition. After all, the grapes sued in its production are amongst the oldest in the entire country. However, we will note that the wine falls on the simpler side of the scale when it comes to complexion and general makeup. The aromas are easy to locate and the wine doesn’t require constant exploration to unlock every single quality it has.
Instead, a bottle of Moscato d’Asti can be popped open and enjoyed instantly. The banning of secondary fermentation in the bottle means that drinkers don’t have to worry about waiting until the wine has reached a certain age before it can be enjoyed, and the fruity, refreshing flavours make it the perfect drink for those who just want to be refreshed, or people who are being introduced to wines for the first time.
Whatever the case may be, Moscato d’Asti has carved out a niche for itself as one of the most accessible Italian wines around, both due to its price and the wine itself. However, that likely doesn’t tell the full story.
Champagne and Hip Hop
As odd as it may seem, the hip hop industry may also be playing a part in the popularity of Moscato d’Asti. According to Wikipedia, hip hop artists and the culture that surrounds them have taken to the drink with fervour, leading to it replacing Champagne as the wine of choice for the entire genre.
Most people point the finger towards classist remarks made by a number of figureheads of the Champagne industry, which generally amounted to thinly-veiled contempt that hip hop was becoming so closely associated with the French wine. This led to a boycott, of sorts, that resulted in hip hop artists looking for a new wine to fir their culture. As unlikely as it may seem, given the lack of luxury attached to the wine, Moscato d’Asti fits the bill and has been widely embraced by this segment of American society.
While the sales achieved through the adoption of Moscato d’Asti by hip hop culture may be fairly minor, comparatively speaking, it cannot be denied that this shift in drinking taste has certainly had some sort of effect on the popularity of the wine in the United States.
The increase in popularity of Moscato d’Asti coincides with an increasing tendency amongst the younger generation of Americans, often labelled “millennials”, to drink wine over more traditional American alcoholic beverages, such as beer.
With an increasing access to educational materials and information about the wines they drink, many Americans are turning to wines in general, and Moscato d’Asti, because of an interest in the history behind them and because they complement a range of foods better than most other alcoholic beverages.
In Moscato d’Asti, it is best served as both a palate cleanser between meals, which is how it is often consumed in Italy, and as a dessert wine. The later purpose, in particular, has only grown the wine’s popularity, as the sweetness of its grapes and the natural sugars that remain in the bottle due to its short fermentation period make it the perfect complement to any number of desserts, including chocolate.
Having said that, its simplicity allows for pairing with a whole range of dishes, making it an easy wine for American restaurants to place on the menu and an accessible gateway for new wine enthusiasts, who often go on to explore other types of wine.