Sweet drop: Remi Pinatel, manager of Wine Odyssey in The Rocks, with a bottle from the wine bar's range of moscatos. Photo: Ben Rushton
It's pink, fizzy and coming soon to a dinner party near you. Moscato, once considered the daggy aunt of the sparkling wine family, is enjoying a revival as producers jump to meet the huge growth in consumption.
Derived from the muscat grape, moscato sales surged in 2008 and have since continued to increase at a rate of about 20 per cent a year.
Moscato surpassed pinot gris and pinot noir last year to become the fourth-fastest rising varietal in chain stores around the country.
Sommeliers and wine buffs might turn up their noses, but the sweet and sugary drop has found a new market in young female drinkers.
''I'll recommend it sometimes but not necessarily in a good way,'' says Remi Pinatel, manager of Wine Odyssey in The Rocks. ''It's usually for people who are not quite ready to appreciate a nice sparkling wine, but the quality is getting a lot better.''
Outside, in the afternoon sun, Paddington wine enthusiast Katie Byford, 36, was enjoying a glass of the Yarra Valley's finest with her husband, Joe. A girlfriend tipped her off to the moscato at Petersons winery in the Hunter Valley and she has been hooked since trying a glass on a wine tour.
With its vibrant pink hue and candyfloss-like sweetness, the 2013 Innocent Bystander moscato from Swan Hill in the Yarra received two thumbs up.
''I just like it because it's nice, easy drinking,'' she said.
''It's not too bubbly; it's nice on an afternoon like this.''
Big wineries are muscling in on the trend and experimenting with the muscat grape. After seeing its light-bodied and pink moscato varieties take off in 2008, South Australian eco-wine label Banrock Station recently launched a red moscato.
''There's a general trend these days for lighter styles overall, whether it's a sauv blanc or a pinot noir. Gone are the days of heavily oaked chardonnays or big, buttery wines,'' says Brad Camer, marketing director of Banrock Station's parent company Accolade Wines.
He said the low alcohol content - usually 5.5 per cent, or half the strength of white wine - and light, sweet flavour appealed to women.
''It's attracting a lot of people who are new to wine and might find a dry chardonnay or a range of rieslings a bit confronting in how much knowledge is required,'' he said.
''This is a take it or leave it kind of wine.''
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