When pairing wines with dessert, options are available across a wide range of sweetness levels. Muscat is one grape variety vinified into semisweet and sweet wines, making it a winning dessert choice. It can range from still to slightly sparkling to fully sparkling.
Known in Italy as Moscato, Muscfat has many transmutations including Orange Muscat, Black Muscat and Muscat Canelli, which confusingly also have Old World monikers.
Nonetheless, most Muscat grown worldwide is made into wine with at least some residual sugar. The grape’s floral, ripe fruit aromas, which frequently include citrus and honeyed notes, are usually expressed in the wine, whether it is dry or sweet.
One way to determine a wine’s sweetness is by its percentage of residual sugar, occasionally listed on the label. Otherwise, the alcohol percentage, a legal label requirement, can provide a hint.
Generally, the higher the alcohol percentage, the lower the residual sugar, though very ripe grapes can be made into wine with an alcohol level approaching 11 to 13 percent and still have enough sugar left over to be sweet.
The country of origin offers another clue as to what’s in the bottle. Italy is known for semisweet and frizzante – or slightly sparkling – Moscato d’Asti. Compared to a more fully sparkling Asti Spumante, with its traditional Champagne closure, Moscato d’Asti contains less pressure in the wine. These bottles are often closed with a tapered cork that’s fully inserted into the bottleneck, requiring a corkscrew and a good bit of elbow grease to remove.
Domestic Muscats – often made from Orange Muscat, Black Muscat and Muscat Canelli – are mostly still wines with some sweetness to them. Both light-bodied and medium-bodied, more mouth-filling styles are produced; more alcohol provides greater body, which can take on weightier dishes than a 5.5 percent alcohol Moscato d’Asti.
Semisweet Muscat’s ripe stone fruit, citrus and honeyed aromas and flavors plus moderate residual sugar make it an ideal aperitif or an accompaniment with not-too-sweet fruity desserts. It’s also a good match for gently spiced fare. Those savory, spicy dishes are also the match for dry Muscats.
A dessert pairing works best if the wine is a touch sweeter than the dish. If the Muscat is quite a bit sweeter, the wine won’t be adversely affected, but the dessert will lose some luster. Conversely, an intense, sugary dessert can make Muscat seem thin and tart.
Angel Food Cake with Lemon-Ginger Mascarpone Cream & Fresh Fruit highlights ripe fruits, which play up the wine’s fruit character. The delicately flavored, light-textured cake is a good base for Moscato and even light- to medium-bodied Muscats.
Mascarpone sweetened to taste with honey – use more for sweeter wines – echoes the wine’s honeyed notes, while the cream provides substance and richness. Hints of lemon and ginger add complexity, accenting the fruit.
This dessert will complement most Muscats and Moscatos, except those that are fortified. Serve these bigger cousins with cheese or a sweeter, more substantial dessert like a frangipane tart.
Picnics and brunches can become even more festive with Muscat – a wine that can easily hold its own from the start to the last cake crumb. And with Muscat’s generally reasonable alcohol level, you can even skip the postprandial coffee.
Slices of pound cake or shortcakes are also good foundations for this simple but winning dessert.
Angel Food Cake With Lemon-Ginger Mascarpone Cream & Fresh Fruit
- 1 cup mascarpone
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice or to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- Pinch kosher salt
- Pinch ground clove
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- About 4 cups mixed ripe, seasonal fruit, like peaches, apricots and pears
- 1 angel food cake
- Optional garnish: mint sprigs,
1) In a medium bowl, mix together mascarpone, lemon zest, ginger, lemon juice, honey, salt and clove. The mascarpone mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.
2)Within 15 minutes of serving, combine the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla in a separate bowl and whip to stiff peaks. Fold into the mascarpone mixture, using a rubber spatula. It may be easier to fold together if the mascarpone mixture is not too cold and stiff. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3) Prior to plating, slice or cut up the fruit.
4)Place a slice of cake on each plate, spoon a dollop of the lemon-ginger mascarpone cream along the edge of the cake then divide the fruit among the plates.
Nutritional information (per serving): 300 calories, 5 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 19 g fat (11 g saturated), 57 mg cholesterol, 234 mg sodium, 2 g fiber