Moscato vs Riesling

Published January 22nd, 2023

Moscato and Riesling are two aromatic white grape varieties of European origin that produce a great variety of wines, including sparkling wines. These features make them exceptionally interesting in comparison.

Moscato vs Riesling.

Moscato, to be precise, is not a single vine but a real family of grapes of which there are about 200 different branches. Given the enormous variety of grapes and also of wine styles, in the case of comparing Moscato vs Riesling, I believe it is necessary to make a precise choice and to address only a specific category of wines in order not to create confusion.

In this article, therefore, we will analyze the difference between Moscato and Riesling, focusing our attention on the sweet wines that these splendid vines are capable of producing.

Moscato vs Riesling

The comparison of Riesling vs Moscato, especially in the sweet wine category, is very interesting, as these wines have many similarities, despite being very different.


Despite having different characters, Moscato and Riesling are aromatic grapes that make similar sweet wines.

Both vines are practically grown all over the world with excellent results. And both Moscato and Riesling wines are produced with varying degrees of sweetness and have rather low alcohol content.

Although that of Riesling is more marked, acidity is one of the key characteristics of both wines.

Even in combination with food, these wines behave similarly: they are excellent with desserts but also lend themselves well to spicy foods and Asian recipes.


Since Moscato is actually a real family of grapes, rather than a single variety, Moscato wines are produced with different varieties (Yellow, White, of Alexandria...).

Moscato can be fortified while Riesling is normally not. But, on the other hand, Riesling lends itself very well to various methods of producing sweet wines: not only late harvest but also noble rot and ice wine.

Thanks to its marked acidity and structure, Riesling wines can be very long-lived, whereas Moscato wines are very often wines to be drunk in their youth.

The price of Riesling wine vs Moscato always tends to be higher.

Comparison chart between Moscato and Riesling

Moscato Riesling
Tasting notes Extremely aromatic wine, with intense fruity and floral notes. Bright acidity with a clean mineral aftertaste. Elegant character, with intense sweetness balanced by a remarkable acidity. Grapefruit, candied citrus zest, stone fruit, melon, stone and graphite flavors.
Sweetness Sweet Off-dry to sweet
Body Light to medium Light to medium
Acidity Medium to high Extremely high
Alcohol Light to high, depending on wine style Low to medium
Age worthiness 1 to 8 years 5 to 25 years
Cost $8 to $100 $10 to $200
Food pairing fruit salads, fruit pies, dry pastries, Christmas cakes such as Panettone, Asian food, Baklava Thai and Vietnamese food, lemon Meringue pie, banana pudding, tarte tatin, cheesecakes
Serving temperature 8-10°C / 46-50°F 8-10°C / 46-50°F
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Taste and flavor


The fundamental characteristic of all the wines that are part of the Moscati family is their intense aromatic profile.

Sparkling sweet wines such as Asti spumante, and Moscato d'Asti are always very fragrant, light, and elegant, with good freshness, with floral hints of citrus and sage. They are never too structured, but always show excellent acidity and a pleasant minerality on the finish. They are also food-friendly and easy-drinking wines with low alcohol content.

The late harvest Moscato, as well as the passion or natural sweet wines (Vin Doux Naturel), are honeyed and ripe, with a sweetness that becomes almost viscous, and flavors that veer towards dried and candied fruit, withered flowers, caramel, and honey.


The off-dry and sweet Riesling wines are characterized by intense aromas of grapefruit, stone fruit, melon, candied lemon peel, butter, honey, wax, and dried fruit with a natural undertone of flint and crushed minerals. Wines affected by Botrytis Cinerea are enriched with spicy notes such as saffron and cinnamon.

But the most relevant characteristic of Riesling is its vibrant acidity which balances the residual sugars in sweet wines and makes them very long-lived.

Sweet Riesling wines, including ice wines, tend to have a very smooth character with a light to medium body, moderate alcohol content, and notable crispness.

Origin and history


The history of Moscato is very ancient, the first written testimonies date back to the 1300s, in Piedmont, the homeland of choice for this very fragrant vine.  But despite the various theories and legends about Moscato, it is now established that its land of origin is Greece, where it has been cultivated for centuries to produce luscious dessert wines.


Riesling's elective homeland is Germany where the vine originates. The areas of main interest all wind along the course of the Rhine or the Moselle river.

Where are they produced and in which styles?


The Moscato family is widely spread all over the world, also thanks to the fascinating character of the wines.

In France, where the Muscat Blanc and Petits Grains variety is widespread, natural sweet wines are produced especially in the South of the country, including Muscat de Rivesaltes and Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.

In Greece, Samos Muscat comes in a variety of sweet styles. In southern Spain, a special Moscatel Sherry is produced with rich caramel flavors. In Portugal, Moscatel de Setúbal is made from the rare Moscatel Roxo grape.

In Italy Moscato is distributed in almost the entire peninsula. Langhe and Monferrato are the most suitable areas for sweet sparkling wines. The best known is Asti Spumante, a very fragrant sweet sparkling wine. Then there is the even lighter and sweeter Moscato d'Asti. It is a wine that can be still or sparkling, fruity, and soft. In Sicily and other areas of Italy, the Moscato grape is often partially dried to concentrate the sweetness. The result is dense, very sweet, and spicy wines.

It's also popular in Australia where Rutherglen Muscat is one of the sweetest styles in the world!


Riesling is considered one of the finest white grape varieties in the world. Its elective homeland is Germany, where it is still today the most widespread grape variety, especially in the Moselle, Palatinate, and Rheingau. Here it produces a wide range of wines from bone-dry to lusciously sweet.

In Alsace, where it produces more full-bodied, fruity, and alcoholic wines, Riesling tends to be produced in a dry style, despite maintaining the most important area is that of the Upper Rhine with vineyards facing east. Riesling from Alsace

In New Zealand, Chile, and Australia, late-harvest wines are made with grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea.

Riesling also produces excellent and opulent Ice-wines, from frozen grapes, in Germany, Austria, and Canada.

Sweetness/dryness comparison

When it comes to Moscato vs Riesling sweetness comparison, the answer is quite simple. Both are vines capable of generating wines with variable sweetness, but Moscato tends to have a higher sugar content also supported at the olfactory level by sweet aromas.

Alcohol content comparison

Both Moscato and Riesling are wines with low alcohol content. However, Moscato produces a wider variety of wines in terms of alcohol content, starting from the very light Moscato D'Asti and ending with some Passito or Fortified wines, with a fairly high alcohol content.

Food pairing

Moscato and Riesling wine pairings are often comparable, but a lot depends on the style of the wine. So if you're still undecided about whether to enjoy Moscato or Riesling, here are the best pairings.


The wines with gentle sweetness such as Moscato D'Asti go perfectly with Christmas desserts such as Panettone but also with fruit-based desserts, pumpkin pie, Tiramisù, crepes, tarts, and even ice cream. It can also be tasted with particularly salty foods such as cured meats. Thanks to its moderate alcohol content, it is the ideal wine for brunch.

Natural sweet wines go very well with mollusks and crustaceans or with dishes of oriental cuisine, especially Thai or Vietnamese, based on fish or white meat. The spiciness and spicy notes are softened by the sweetness of the Moscato, while the excellent acidity refreshes the palate.

Passito and late-harvest Moscato go well with lots of desserts, including those with custard or nutty and honeyed ones like Baklava.


For Riesling, food pairings depend on how sweet is Riesling actually. Indeed, different degrees of residual sugar make it differently compatible with a wide variety of foods.

Off-dry wines go deliciously with spicy foods. As with Moscato, semi-dry Riesling is also very compatible with Asian cuisine. Try it with Thai fish cake, Thai salads, crispy duck salad, or spicy noodles.

Sweet Riesling goes well with baked fruit desserts, apple or pear pie, lemon pie, and banana pudding. Obviously, the combination with blue cheese is not to be missed.

Wines to try under $50

As a general rule sweet wines tend to have a higher price than dry wines, but many of them, under $50, are perfect to explore the difference between Riesling and Moscato.

Here is our selection:

La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia Moscato d'Asti, Italy.


  • Verona Moscato Giallo Passito IGT "Duecuori", Le Vigne di San Pietro, Italy

  • La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia Moscato d'Asti, Italy

  • Yalumba Antique Muscat, Australia

  • Quady Essensia Orange Muscat, California

  • Domaine Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes, France

Ojai Kick On Ranch Dessert Riesling, California.


  • Ojai Kick On Ranch Dessert Riesling, California

  • Grosset 'Alea' Off-Dry Riesling, Australia

  • Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Single Vineyard Off Dry Riesling, Germany

  • Dr. Loosen Riesling Eiswein, Germany

  • Casas del Bosque Late Harvest, Chile

Photo credits Luca J