Moscato rosa is a red grape variety typically made into sweet wines. Its name derives not from its color, but from its distinctive rose-like aroma (it is also called Moscato delle rose, or “Muscat of the roses”). Today mostly cultivated in Alto Adige and in Trentino, Moscato rosa is actually an offspring of the white grape variety Muscat blanc a petit grains. Although the name “Moscato rosa” appears in gene banks in different locations, the one from Alto Adige has been shown to be genetically distinct from most of the other grapes with the same name; it is the same variety as the Croatian muskat ruza porecki, and this grape likely originated in Croatia. It was brought to Alto Adige (or South Tyrol) in the late 19th century. Although moscato rosa is grown in very small quantities in other parts of Italy and in Austria (where it has been accepted as a quality wine since 2017) and Alsace (France), it is most closely associated with the wine culture of Alto Adige.
The soil and climate in the mountainous region of Alto Adige, and particularly the warm air currents channeled up the valleys from the south (which protect the vines from rot and fungal disease, and cause important temperature fluctuations over the course of the day), contribute to the typical minerality, aromaticity, and freshness of moscato rosa wines. The total area cultivated with moscato rosa vines remains small (literally just a few hectares), as this variety presents a number of difficulties, including its tendency to drop flowers. This results in loose bunches and lower yields. Also, within the bunches, there is high irregularity in the size of the grapes–many are small, seedless, and sweet. This variety also has very thin skin, which makes the grapes highly susceptible to attacks by the fruit fly Drosophila suzukii.
The low yield of sweet grapes is part of the reason for the tradition to turn moscato rosa into sweet wines, and without residual sugars the wine would contain too many bitter notes. The grapes are dried partly on the plant, protected from birds by nets, and then further dried in boxes under the eaves of the local farmhouses, known as masi. Moscato rosa traditionally accompanies desserts like Strauben, Strudel, Zelten, Krapfen filled with poppy, Buchteln, and Kaiserschmarrn.