Pacific Rim
July 14, 2023 | wine | Pacific Rim

Which is Sweeter: Moscato or Riesling?

Two of the most popular white wines in the world today are Moscato and Rieslings. Both offer the perfect level of sweetness, a quality many of those who haven’t previously been fans of wine look for. They’re smooth, easy to drink choices that pair well with many different dishes. Crisp and refreshing, they’re often considered the ideal choice.

Trying to find the next bottle to add to your wine rack, though, can be a little confusing, especially if you love sweet wines. Given that both are so popular, knowing the answer to the question “Which is sweeter: Moscato or Riesling?” can help significantly. It may also help to know a bit about the differences between these two varieties.

First Things First: What is Sweeter - Moscato or Riesling?

In most cases, you’re going to find that Moscato is sweeter than a Riesling. The reality, though, is that it’s difficult to tell you that every Moscato or Riesling you pick up is going to be sweet, which makes it a little hard for these wines to go head to head in terms of sweetness. On the whole, though, if you’re looking for the sweetest option between those two choices, you should get a bottle of Moscato.

Understanding Both Wines

As you consider which wine is sweeter, it may help to better understand both the aromas and flavors behind Rieslings and Moscatos. Both have fairly similar profiles. Citrus fruits like lemons and limes as well as stone fruits like peaches and nectarines tend to be something you’ll notice with both Rieslings and Moscatos. In most cases, you’ll be able to describe either one as floral, as you may smell rose, white flowers, and many other blossoms when you open the bottle. You’ll also find a crisp, refreshing taste with each glass of Riesling or Moscato.

The similarities between these two wines, though, tend to end there. Moscato is made from the Muscat grape. It’s in the same family as a Muscat wine, but the Moscato is much sweeter. A Muscat wine tends to be quite dry and has a fairly high alcohol level. The grape itself was initially grown in the Mediterranean region. Muscat grapes date back to the Ancient Greeks, but they could be far older. Today, they’re grown across the world.

Riesling grapes are from Germany. They date back to the 15th century for certain, but they probably date back a bit further than that. Every year, March 13th is celebrated as Riesling’s birthday because March 13, 1435, is the first documented date that a Riesling wine was sold. As with Moscatos, today, Rieslings are grown across the world.

Rieslings offer far more variety than Moscatos do, though. You’ll find that Rieslings range from quite dry like our 2021 Dry Riesling to intense sweetness like the 2021 Sweet Riesling. The level of residual sugar in them

depends entirely on the winemaker. Crisp and refreshing, though, they maintain a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity levels. As a result, even when these two wines have exactly the same levels of residual sugars, a Riesling may seem slightly less sweet thanks to the acidity that is involved with this wine.

It may feel a bit heavier on your palate as well. Think of the difference between a peach just off the vine and a glass of cool lemonade in the summer. The difference between these two wines is quite similar. The Moscato is more likely to be that peach right off the vine. The Riesling, though, balances the sweetness with the acidity creating a refreshing feel just as lemonade might.

How are Sweet Wines Made?

Wines get the level of sweetness inside them from the grapes themselves. When grapes are ripe, there’s quite a bit of sugar in them, which is essential to the process of fermentation. The yeast eats the sugar, and that makes alcohol. In some cases, though, sugar is left after that process, and the more residual sugar that is left, the sweeter the wine will be. As a result, with sweet wines, the sugar level in the grapes needs to be quite high the moment the fermentation process begins.

There are many different ways that winemakers create that sweet wine you eventually purchase. They can harvest the grapes later in the season. The reason behind that is that the longer a grape stays on the vine, the sweeter it may be. Winemakers have other options, too. By drying the grapes in the sun, they have the ability to concentrate the sugars inside them. You can learn more about this process in our blog post on the Riesling growing cycle.

Conversely, they can freeze them to create a higher concentration of sugar, as in the case of our 2016 Pacific Rim Ice Wine Riesling. By far, however, the most common way to create the sweetness you might find in a Riesling or a Moscato is by stopping the fermentation process early at between six and eight percent alcohol so there is plenty of remaining sugar to create a sweeter wine.

Finding the Right Sweet Wine to Meet Your Needs

Whether you go with a Moscato or a Riesling, there are a few different ways you can simply look at a wine label and decide just how sweet it might be. The first is by looking at the ABV, or alcohol by volume level. If the alcohol level is fairly low, the wine will be fairly sweet. A sweet Riesling tends to have between seven and nine percent ABV, while a Moscato usually has between five and eight percent ABV.

Remember that you don’t just want to factor in how sweet a wine is as you select the right one. You may also want to think about how you’re serving it. If you’re serving wine with a meal, both Riesling and Moscato go well with fruit, honey glazed meats, and anything that incorporates a balance of sweet and sour flavors. They also both work well with spicier foods. Rieslings tend to taste fantastic with richer foods like pork dishes, too. Find out more about the Best Riesling Pairings on our blog.

No matter what flavor you’re looking for, at Pacific Rim, we have the variety you want most. Let us help you find your next perfect bottle. Take a look at the sweet wines and Rieslings we have to offer to help complement whatever comes next for you.


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