What’s the Difference Between Riesling and Moscato?

Riesling and Moscato are two popular sweet white wines. Riesling is especially popular in Germany and the United States, while Moscato is very popular in Italy and Australia.

Riesling wines are traditionally drier than Moscatos, but still considered a sweet wine when compared to other whites. Moscato wines are a good alternative to Champagne if you're looking for a sparkling wine that is on the sweeter side.

If you would like to deepen your knowledge of these two delectable wines, read on for a comparison of their flavors, origins, and a few ideas for the perfect food pairings.

What is the difference between Riesling and Moscato?

Origin

A significant amount of Riesling is found in Germany; however, this grape variety is also commonly grown in the United States, Canada, France, Austria, Australia, and New Zealand.

Moscato comes from the Muscat Blanc grape. This grape has been historically used for wine as far back as Ancient Egypt, according to some theories. Its long history has resulted in over 200 variations of Moscato wines. While the most popular Moscato comes from northwestern Italy, you will also find others that come from the United States, Spain, Portugal, France, Australia, Chile, or South Africa.

Taste

Riesling and Moscato are actually similar in the fact that they can both have fruity and floral profiles.

Riesling is a light-to-medium bodied, sweet, white wine. It has intense flavors of orchard fruits such as apricot, nectarines, pear, apple, pineapple, lime, and Meyer lemon. It also offers aromas such as honey, waxy honeycomb, ginger, citrus blossom, rubber, and oddly even petrol or diesel fuel. Riesling is also slightly acidic which balances out its sweetness.

Moscato is also a light bodied, sweet, white wine. It has sweet flavors of Meyer lemon, Mandarin orange, pear, orange blossom, and honeysuckle and it has similar aromas. The most famous Moscato wine called Moscato d’Asti is from the Italian region of Asti and is known for being the fizziest of the sparkling Moscatos.

Sweetness/Dryness

You can find both sweet and dry styles of Riesling whereas you generally only find sweet styles of Moscato. When comparing the two, the Moscato is the sweetest.

Alcohol Content

You will generally find that Rieslings have a 12% alcohol content. The alcohol content in Moscatos can vary depending on the style. For example, a Moscato d’Asti, which is a sparkling wine, only has about a 5.5% alcohol content whereas other non-sparkling Moscatos can have up to 13%.

Calories

If you are looking for a wine that is lighter on calories, Riesling will have slightly lower calories per glass. A glass of Riesling (about 5 fluid ounces) will generally have about 118 calories. And for the Moscato, you are looking at approximately 123 calories per glass.

Carbs

The delicious sugary sweetness of Moscato also means that it comes with a few more carbs per glass. A Riesling will have about 5.5 grams of carbs per glass while the Moscato will often have around 7.8 grams per glass.

Price

With so many winemakers out there making both of these wines, there is sure to be a price point for almost anyone. It is possible to find relatively cheap bottles of both Riesling and Moscato. For approximately $20 you can buy a Napa Valley Moscato, or the similarly priced Brundmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Riesling.

If you are looking for something a little bit more sophisticated, you could be looking at spending around $50-60 for a high quality Riesling and around $40 for a similar quality Moscato.

Which is better?

For taste

Both Riesling and Moscato are traditionally sweeter wines and therefore are often considered dessert wines. If you prefer a sweeter wine, go for the Moscato. If you are looking for something a little bit dryer, try the Riesling.

For food pairing

When it comes to pairing wine with food, the general rule of thumb is that you pair like with like. For example, sweet with sweet, light with light, etc. However, from time to time you may also pair them with their opposite.

For Riesling, the sweetness and light acidity of the wine pairs well with light, refreshing foods or even slightly spicy foods such as Thai salad. It also goes well with naturally sweet roasted vegetables such as sweet potato, squash, bell pepper, and red onion. If you are looking for a cheese to pair with it, go for something soft and delicately flavored such as cheese made from cow’s milk.

When it comes to Moscato, pair it with aromatic dishes such as honey-glazed pork or lemon chicken. It also works well with seafood dishes. For vegetables and fruits, try red or yellow bell peppers, carrots, celery, green onion, mango, orange, and pineapple. It also pairs well with hard cheeses from both cow’s and sheep’s milk.

For weddings

When deciding on the wine to serve at your wedding or other events, first and foremost, consider what the majority of your guests are likely to enjoy. Second, you should consider the food that you intend to serve it with. The third consideration is the season of your wedding. Will you be having a warm summer wedding or a frosty winter wedding?

Because white wines are usually more refreshing, guests tend to gravitate towards them in the summer, and Rieslings are a great choice here. With many options for a milder sweetness, you are likely to appeal to the tastes of more of your guests by choosing the Riesling over the Moscato.

However, if you are looking for something a little bit more dazzling and sparkling for a special moment such as getting ready with your bridesmaids, during the photoshoot, or even giving toasts just after dessert, a little taste of some bubbly Moscato could be just perfect.