The dog days of summer may be winding down, but it's still too hot outside to be drinking most sweet wines. Heavy Ports, super rich Sauternes or ultra-sweet Australian stickies sound about as appealing as taking a bath in molasses. So what's a wine lover to do when the dessert roles around at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival or a late summer picnic? The answer: Moscato d'Asti. This wine from northwest Italy has a number of things going for it. It's low in alcohol, around 6 percent, which is important if you plan to stand up after a long evening of indulgence. It's on the lighter side of sweet, which works well with the summer heat. And there's a nice bit of bubbles, the Italians call it frizzante, which adds a bit of fun and refreshment. Pair it with fruit-based desserts or sorbets. Here are the panel's top picks.
2004 Cascina Castlet Moscato, $14
Just the barest hint of bubbles mark this wine that opens with delicate apricot and spicy apple aromas. Seductive flavors of honeyed stone fruit carry through, nicely finishing with an enticing sweet and creamy lemon. This family estate located south of Torino dates back to the 1600s. Current vines are about 20 years old and owner Maria Borio farms them organically.
2004 Coppo Moncalvina Moscato, $18.50
Founded in 1892, the first member of the fourth generation has recently come on board. Best known for their Barberas, Coppo's Moscato is also consistently outstanding. The aromas are rich and complex with white peaches, honeyed green apple and vanilla. Equally intense in the mouth, the flavors are highlighted by ripe peach and lime with a kiss of cinnamon. Soft effervescence and smooth citrus on the finish keep things in balance.
2005 Saracco Moscato d'Asti, $15
Paulo Saracco has been making wine since he was a teenager, and today he is often referred to as the "King of Moscato." The most effervescent wine of the tasting, it serves up a wide range of aromas including lime, apricot, orange blossom, melon and mint. The flavors are dominated by honeyed melon and papaya showing a nice persistence. Sparkling acidity keeps the sweetness in check.
This Week's Panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay