My love affair with Moscato d’Asti began over 40 years ago when Michele and I were in Piedmont and visited the Vietti Winery. Sheldon Wasserman, a friend and Italian wine expert and writer, had told us to be sure to visit this winery not only because they made great wines, but because Alfredo and Luciana were such nice people. We arrived at the gate of the winery and I rang the bell. A man appeared and I said in Italian siamo amici di Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman. He turned and called to his wife: “Luciana, Luciana, friends of Sheldon and Pauline are here!”
They invited us into their home to meet the whole family and we drank Moscato d’Asti with crumiri, buttery cornmeal cookies, and had a wonderful time. I have been hooked on Moscato d’Asti ever since.
When I received a notice from Virginia Cademartori, Head of PR and Communications for Platinum Media LLC that they were now working with the Consorzio per la Tutela dell’Asti and taking care of the promotion of the Consorzio, the territory, Moscato grapes, the Asti Spumante DOCG and the Moscato d’Asti DOCG, I was very glad. I have been to many events arranged by Virginia and found them to be well organized and enjoyable.The Consorzio Asti DOCG was founded in 1932 and works for the protection, enhancement and promotion of the wines. Thanks to the effort of the producers and the Consorzio, Asti received the DOC in 1967 and the DOCG in 1993. UNESCO recognized the vineyard landscape of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato as World Heritage Sites, thus protecting 5 distinct wine growing areas. There are 6,800 producers with 9,900 hectares of vineyards. Production has reached 60 million bottles of Asti Spumante and 42 million of Moscato d’Asti, all under the guidance of the Consorzio. Over 90% of the production is exported.Asti Spumante DOCG and Moscato d’Asti DOCG come from Moscato Bianco (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) strain of grapes. It is one of the oldest known varieties of wine grapes and grows in the Piedmont regions of Laghe-Roero and Monferrato. The zone is between the Ligurian Coast and the Alps.
Moscato d’Asti is made from the same grape as Asti Spumante and has many of the same flavors and aromas. It is also low in alcohol around 5% by volume. The difference is that Moscato d’Asti is only slightly sparkling (frizzante) and it is vintage dated while Asti Spumante is not and is considered a Spumante. Moscato d’Asti should be drunk as close to the vintage date as possible. The two wines share the same DOCG.
For Asti Spumante the grapes are refrigerated at zero degrees until they reach a second fermentation, a process that can be accomplished either according to the “Martinotti Method” or the complex “Classico Method.” Recently, the range of residual sugars has been expanded from traditional sweet to extra dry, from brut to pas dosé. Asti Spumante is known world wide as a sparkling wine to be drunk every time there is a reason to celebrate.
Harvest of the grapes is by hand and takes place in early September
For Moscato d’Asti, there is a gentle pressing of the grape bunches by a pneumatic press. The must is clarified in order to eliminate all the solid residue and any other undesired components it may contain. Alcoholic fermentation takes place through the addition of select yeasts at a controlled temperature. The limpid and cooled must is poured into large tanks and repeatedly filtered to prevent spontaneous fermentation. Moscato d’Asti does not go through a second fermentation in the bottle. Instead, the second fermentation is performed in a single tank (autoclave) using the Martinotti method, in which bubbles are trapped in the wine via carbonation in the tank. Yeasts are eliminated by filtration or centrifugation. The wine is then kept in cooling tanks at about -3C so that fermentation does not start. At the time of bottling, the temperature is raised until fermentation begins. It is stopped at about 5% alcohol. Fermentation can be stopped and then started so that the wine can be bottled several times a year. This aromatic wine should be enjoyed young when it is at its freshest.
Virginia sent me two bottles of Moscato d’Asti
Moscato d’Asti Azienda Agricola DOCG 2022 Matteo Sorta made from 100% Moscato Bianco from vineyards in Castiglione Tinella (Cuneo). Soil is calcaroni limestone with sandy veins and harvest is in late August/early September. The alcohol content is 5% and residual sugar is 140g/l. The wine is intense and aromatic with hints of acacia flowers, peach and apricot with good acidity.
Moscato d’Asti Canelli DOCG 2022 Azienda Agricola Terrabianca. Made from 100% Moscato Bianco from the Vignot vineyard with 50 year old vines. The vineyard is at 520 meters (45% inclination) with a south/south west exposure. There are 5,700 vines per hectare. The soil is clay-calcareous and the training system is guyot. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and the must remains in stainless steel tanks at -3C. Closed tank fermentation takes place at 17C until the alcohol level reaches 5%. The wine is bottles several times a year to preserve its freshness. It has hints of apricot, honeysuckle, orange blossom and a touch of tangerine with good acidity to balance the sweetness.
Moscato d’Asti is a wine that can be enjoyed on its own and any time of the day or night. It can be drunk before, during or after dinner with or without dessert. It is great with brunch also because of the low alcohol. It can go with biscotti and other pastries, or poured over fresh fruit. Recently a noted wine and food writer wrote that he liked it with oysters.