Sweet wines – that is, wines that are generally intended as dessert wines – get far too little attention and respect. This is tragic, because many of the world’s finest, most eloquent wines are, in fact, sweet wines. They can command astronomic prices, too, when coming from the right place and producer.
Any grape can be coaxed into making a sweet wine, but there are few that shine in the role. Almost all of the white grapes that do, however, are aromatic varieties like Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and, of course, Muscat.
But not every Muscat is the same. In fact, they are a large family of grapes populated by all berry colours, from white through pink to red. Today I am only interested in one: Zibibbo, which is the official Italian name for the grape often known elsewhere as Muscat of Alexandria.
It is an ancient grape that most likely originated in Sicily or Greece. The Mediterranean basin east and south of France grows more of this grape than any other kind of Muscat, due to history and the fact that Zibibbo is very drought and wind-resistant. Perfect for the region. In fact, if you buy a wine labelled as “Muscat” from this part of the world, it is almost certainly made from Zibibbo.
It is often made as a sweet wine, where its berries are dried on the vine or on mats to concentrate flavours and sugars – in Italy this is called Passito. And though many say Zibibbo doesn’t show the refinement of its parent, Muscat Blanc á Petits Grains (called Moscato Bianco in Italy), it does a stupendous job in the south of Italy producing wines exuding the aromas of apricot, orange jam, ginger and dried fruits.
Your Holiday Dessert Wine
And that’s where I am going with this post. Winter holiday desserts are very often made with plenty of dried fruit, as well as spices like ginger, cloves, nutmeg and the like. And Zibibbo is a superstar at reflecting and complementing these flavours. The best examples maintain good acidity, too, meaning you won’t get tired of them after a single glass. Gorgeous stuff!
I had the pleasure of presenting one of my favourite desserts paired with a delightful Zibibbo Passito for Mamma mia …Che Buono! recently. Check it out below!
I chose a biodynamically-farmed wine from the highly-acclaimed Fattoria la Vialla, which is actually located in Tuscany, but sources and fills this wine in Sicily. The price was excellent, the wine was wonderful. And let me just say, it was perfect with Pumpkin Pie!