The Piedmont region stands out for three treasures in sparkling wines: Moscato d'Asti, Asti Spumante, and Moscato Spumante. Although they share a common lineage, each of these wines boasts unique characteristics that set them apart. This article delves into the nuances that distinguish these wines by examining their production processes and offering expert pairing advice.
Moscato d'Asti: The Elegance of Moscato
A symbol of elegance, Moscato d'Asti is produced exclusively with Moscato Bianco grapes. This semi-sparkling wine is known for its softer bubbles, with a maximum alcohol content of 5.5% and a gentle pressure of 1.7 atmospheres. It is renowned for its sweet and aromatic profile, with flavors of tropical fruits and a light effervescence. It is an accessible choice for both novices and connoisseurs.
Asti Spumante, often simply called Asti, is a fully sparkling sweet wine that contrasts with Moscato d'Asti for its higher alcohol content (7-9%) and pressure levels (3.5-4 atmospheres). Produced with the Charmat method, it is characterized by pronounced fruity flavors, leading to a greater perceived sweetness. Celebrated for its lively fruity aromas - peaches, apricots, and juicy pears - Asti balances these with a crisp acidity, making it a festive favorite.
The Production Process
Moscato d'Asti: The grapes are immediately pressed after harvest, with the juice cooled and stored. Fermentation in closed tanks preserves the wine's mousse, stopping at 5.5% alcohol to maintain natural sweetness.
Asti Spumante: Harvesting begins in early September. After pressing, the grape juice ferments in pressurized tanks for about 12-20 days, cooling once 7-9% alcohol is reached, ensuring the preservation of sweetness.
Asti Metodo Classico: The Traditional Twist
Asti Metodo Classico, or Asti Spumante Metodo Classico DOCG, is a sophisticated variant produced via the Champenoise Method. This technique involves bottle fermentation and a minimum aging of nine months on the lees. The result is generally a drier wine, ranging from demi-sweet to much drier versions. This complex production process lends a unique charm to traditional sparkling wines.
Asti Secco: The Dry Revolution
Officially recognized by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Asti Secco offers a drier alternative. At around 17 grams per liter of residual sugar, it approaches Extra Dry Prosecco. Its balance of sweetness and dryness, coupled with aromas of acacia, lavender, and fruit such as apple, makes it an excellent aperitif or pairing for light dishes. Best enjoyed young and cold, Asti Secco highlights its fresh and lively character.
Canelli DOCG: A Prestigious Subzone of Asti
Canelli, originally a subzone of Asti DOCG, was elevated to its own DOCG in 2023. Located in Piedmont, its 100 hectares of vineyards produce distinctive white wines from 100% Moscato Bianco grapes. Strict rules govern its production, including requirements for vineyard elevation and manual harvesting, with specific demands for pressure and alcohol levels. For the Riserva category, wines must undergo a minimum of 30 months of aging, including 20 months in the bottle.
Vigna Designation: Highlighting Exceptional Vineyards
The "Vigna" denomination, similar to the French "Grand Cru," is used to highlight distinct vineyards. Wines with this label often follow more stringent regulations than standard DOC/DOCG wines, such as higher alcohol content and lower yields. The Vigna classification emphasizes the unique qualities and specific characteristics of the terroir of these esteemed vineyards and also applies to Moscato d'Asti.
Sorì Eroici: Revitalizing Sloping Vineyards
Launched in 2021 by the Associazione Comuni del Moscato, the Sorì Eroici initiative aims to revitalize sloping vineyards in the Piedmont wine regions of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato. This project, tackling the challenges of maintaining these laborious vineyards, maps 20,000 hectares to recognize and valorize these historic sites. The initiative requires a minimum slope of 40%, prohibiting mechanization and a commitment to sustainable vineyard management practices. The main wines produced under the Sorì Eroici label include Moscato d'Asti, Barbera, and Dolcetto.
We introduce you to 4 wines to discover Asti and its wines in different forms:
Asti Metodo Classico - Rapalino
This classic method brut is produced from noble Moscato grapes, carefully cultivated in the south-facing vineyards of Camo. The vinification unfolds through a first fermentation in steel tanks, where the temperature is strictly controlled to capture the aromatic soul of Moscato. After six months of rest on the fine lees, with weekly batonnage, the wine proceeds to the second fermentation in the bottle. In the glass, Moscato d'Asti reveals itself with a pure and bright straw-yellow color, followed by an intricate bouquet where notes of sage, peach blossom, and green apple intertwine in an aromatic harmony. Tasting takes us through a fine and elegant effervescence, concluding with a long and broad finish, fully representative of the varietal characteristics. This wine stands out for its versatility, being ideal as an aperitif or paired with refined appetizers.
Moscato d'Asti Solatio - Roberto Sarotto
Roberto Sarotto's Moscato d'Asti Solatio takes us on a journey through the vineyards of Neviglie, where the Sorì Ciabot vineyard, one of the "Sorì Eroici," benefits from an ideal southeast exposure. The calcareous soil contributes to the richness and complexity of the wine. In the glass, Moscato d'Asti Solatio displays a straw-yellow color with greenish hues, symbolizing its freshness and youth. The bouquet is richly aromatic, with a mix of ripe fruit and honey, enriched by notes of sage. The flavor, sweet and lively, makes this Moscato particularly enjoyable to savor chilled, ideal with desserts or as a base for innovative cocktails.
Asti DOCG - Roberto Sarotto
Made with 100% Moscato grapes, this sparkling wine stands out for its straw-yellow color and its fine and lively bubbles. The early harvest on calcareous-marl soils gives the wine a unique olfactory and taste dimension. Its light structure makes it extremely drinkable, suitable as an aperitif or in perfect harmony with a variety of sweets. Like the Moscato d'Asti, this Asti is made by always keeping the must cold and ready for fermentation before each bottling to have an exceptionally fresh product while preserving the aromas.
Moscato d'Asti Vigna Camo - Rapalino
Moscato grapes, cultivated with dedication in the vineyards of Vigna Camo, confer exceptional quality to this sparkling wine. At first glance, the wine fascinates with its bright golden color. On the nose, floral and fruity aromas emerge, typical of the Moscato variety. On the palate, the wine reveals itself as sweet yet balanced, with a light effervescence that enhances its freshness. The low yields in the vineyard give a concentration almost similar to a passito, making this Moscato a true masterpiece. Perfect for special occasions or as an aperitif, it pairs beautifully with fruit desserts or blue cheeses.