By The Glass
Sweet sipping for Valentine's
IT SEEMS only natural in Hawaii, with our warmer climate and tropical influences, that the popularity of moscato d'Asti from Italy has grown considerably. Year round, moscato, with its low alcohol, vibrant fruit, delicate mousse and captivating perfume, is without peer.
There are a lot of excellent moscatos in retail stores. Truly great moscato, with delicate fruit bound by crisp acidity and gentle effervescence, can only be achieved with perfect balance. Only a few producers have mastered the craft. One of these is Stefano Perrone of Elio Perrone, who has emerged as one of the region's best.
Perrone, who took over the family domaine named for his father, produces two moscatos. The first, named Sourgal, is released around November and carries a pure, vibrant expression of the moscato grape. His second wine, Clarté, released five months later, is considered by many to be his best -- emphasizing a sublime purity, an extraordinary richness and an ambrosia-like quality. Both can be found for less than $20.
MOSCATO would be ideal for a Valentine's picnic. Here are foods that make an especially good match. Find them at select markets or specialty shops:
The classic combination of ripe cantaloupe and prosciutto di Parma is always fantastic. The lesser known prosciutto di San Danielle with its milder, sweeter flavors, works equally well and is a personal favorite. If you can find it, the French Charentais melon (now cultivated in South America and Chile) or hybrid French Kiss melon (a Charentais/canteloupe cross) are very sweet, succulent and an excellent alternative to cantaloupe or honeydew.
Patés and mousses work well with moscato. The slightly sweet and savory Mousse Truffee with Cognac and Truffles by Three Little Pigs is ideal, while Paté Mousquetierre with Prunes and Armagnac by D'Artagnan has rich robust flavors.
In England, cheeses with fruit have always been popular. A few of my favorites include Wensleydale with Cranberry, White Stilton with Mango and Ginger, White Stilton with Apricots and, from Italy, the Peck Marsacapone and Fig Torte.
Moscato also goes well with cakes or tarts with fruit and cream-rich puddings such as zabaglione and panna cotta. Consider, as well, French pastries from St. Germain's Bakery or J.J.'s French Pastry on Waialae Avenue. Owner J.J. Praseuth Luangkhot highly recommends a light, flavorful tart such as the almondine as it contrasts with the exotic sweetness of the moscato.
For a natural approach, marinate fresh berries (especially strawberries) in moscato. Top with whipped cream, rice cream or -- my personal choices -- the polar treats of Haagen Dazs French Vanilla or Lemon Custard from Dave's Ice Cream.
THE INNOVATIVE Elio Perrone also makes a pink frizzante-styled wine called Bigaro, also less than $20. Like moscato, Bigaro is refreshingly sweet, but a blend of the moscato and brachetto grapes. The wine is wonderful, with watermelon and strawberry flavors.
Complement Bigaro's unique flavors with fruit tarts with berries and cherries or desserts with a lighter layering of chocolate. A guava chiffon cake from Liliha Bakery or a black forest cake from the Patisserie would be perfect.
And now that I've given away all these ideas, I'll have to come up with a new one for my special someone.
Kevin Toyama is a sommelier at the Halekulani Hotel and an advanced certificate holder from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org