The fresh, sweet 2001 Michele Chiarlo Nivole has racy acidity and lovely fruit. It could make a confirmed wine hater into a wine lover. With the alcohol content at only 7 percent, you indulge without too much fear of reprisal from the gods of hangover. Some pundits even think they have discovered the true niche for Moscato D'Asti as "the perfect breakfast wine." It certainly might be appropriate for a leisurely weekend brunch with waffles, but I also love it with fruit desserts.
Barwang Winery NV Muscat ($30)
Barwang is a native Australian word meaning "swiftly moving bird." It's also the name of the homestead in Riverina, New South Wales, where the McWilliams family has been making wine for five generations. Its luscious Barwang Muscat was voted Best of Show Dessert Wine at this year's San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Like many Australian versions of Muscat, it's fortified with brandy and then put through a regime of barrel aging. A portion of the blend dates back to the 1964 vintage, giving the wine a dusky complexity. After its long stay in wood, the wine takes on lovely tones of rancio, the desirable oxidized quality that connoisseurs appreciate in great sherry and Madeira. The Barwang Muscat is dark, thick, and dense with irresistible notes of spice and molasses. This one has 18.5 percent alcohol, so a little will go a long way. Sip it after dinner as a dessert in itself, or pour it over vanilla ice cream.
Quady 2000 Essensia Orange Muscat ($18)
The Quady Essensia shows one of many faces of the shape-shifting Muscat grape. It's made from Orange Muscat, a relatively obscure variation of this variety. According to Andrew Quady, who has made a specialty of this varietal, it was formerly grown in France but these days is found mainly in California, Italy, and Australia.