Matteo Soria in Castiglione Tinella is the man. If the world at large is not yet privy to his prowess they will soon be. Soria’s work put in with Asti’s varietal exemplar and the sparkling wines that emerge are turning moscato into gold. His Moscato d’Asti methodology is brilliant, seemingly simple in its chemistry and scientific efficacy but truths are spoken in complex terms. Grapes are literally suspended in time, beyond weeks, months and years, often for decades before their transfer to fermentation and then bottling. Both those in the present and also juice renewed come to astonishing results. Matteo Soria’s made to order Moscato d’Asti.
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It begins, as it must, with weight and measurements. The math is straightforward: 100 kilograms of grapes is equal to 86 of must. The first press of moscato yields 15 per cent of that 86, or 13 kg. Only 15 per cent is used for the top wine. The must is kept at freezing temperature (approximately -2 degrees celsius) and every two months must be “cleaned.” Musts from past vintages are also kept (generally up to four) for the production of Moscato d’Asti wines. The DOCG rule says that a vintage dated wine must consist of 75 per cent must from that year’s production. Soria’s are just that, with the other 25 per cent made up of the three previous vintages. Complexity factor increased and in Matteo’s world that is how you achieve such a distinction because to him “this is not a single-vineyard ideal.”
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Soria is not wholly impressed with the aromas from the 2019 vintage, like 2016, very hot. “For moscato we don’t need too much sun,” says Matteo. “The grapes will dry out, burn, lose freshness and perfumes. From tasting the must you smell honey which proves the grapes are not perfectly mature.” This is where the vision of using 25 per cent must from the three preceding vintages works to great advantage. Phenolic holes are filled, absent aromas are engaged and layers of intricacy are cast. We taste the musts of 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. The ’19 smells like honey, the ’17 is developed, rich and full of glycerin, nearly cloying. As for ’16 it’s certainly sweet and somewhat out of balance but there is delicacy, florals and it’s never cloying. The ’18 is clearer, easier to comprehend, showing nary a trace of honey. The presence of white flowers and apricot in a wine lighter in hue and more delicate in mien speaks exactly to what Matteo Soria is after. When fermentation happens those aromas increase by 80 per cent. There’s the rub and the magic.
The terroir of Castiglione Tinella is one that breeds some of the highest acidity for moscato. The pH averages out at 3.4 and when bottled at 3.08, because this is when the acidity rises. Once a week every week 10,000 litres are moved to fermentation to begin their process of making Moscato d’Asti. The bottling quantities are 1,500 a week and so approximately 75,000 per year. We convened in the tasting room with Matteo Soria and his wife Eleonora Bragnero, winemaker at Cantina Oriolo in Montelupo Albese. These are the fives wines tasted.
Matteo Soria Moscato d’Asti DOCG Soria 2019, Piedmont, Italy ($16.00 – Estimate)
Bottled last week, barely moved in, likely not yet settled into its new digs. Made up of 75 per cent 2019 (as per appellation rule) plus a mix of the three previous vintages. Crisp, cleaner and waxier than the ’16 with sharper acidity and leaner flavours. Heavily aromatic and even a bit herbal but just so linear, searing and lightning quick in reflex motion. That said the ripeness is just a tad short of ideal and so Matteo seems to have gone straight to freshness and intensity. It was the correct choice with a little help from the last three vintage friends. All about finding more aromas. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted December 2019
Matteo Soria Moscato d’Asti DOCG Soria 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($16.00 – Estimate)
Bottled in the beginning of November, and while again looking like it was just bottled it was kept at passive winery temperatures. The biggest difference is not so much a comparison to vintages but to the other Moscato d’Asti producing areas around, as in Canelli and Castignole Lanze. This according to Matteo is the mineral hill and a pinch of salt consistently confirms the boast. There seems just a slight advancement, a move into lemon curd and a sweeter profile of further fruit density. Acids up high are maintained and this surely is a top quality vintage. For the price it is clearly one of the benchmarks for the appellation. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted December 2019
Matteo Soria Moscato d’Asti DOCG Soria 2005, Piedmont, Italy
Fermented in December 2005 and from a program out of which in every weekly bottling Matteo Soria kept back 12 bottles, for replacements and for saving them 14 years to taste at times like this. Has been kept in a minus two temperature cellar all this time and so yes, it is as fresh as the day it was bottled. Acids are sharp and invigorating, lemon meringue flavours are just so and a saltiness streaks through which is something Matteo calls mineral, specially from his Castagnole Tinelli vineyards. Impossible and amazing. The question is, what is gained if nothing is lost? It’s a cryogenic moscato. Keep it forever if you can maintain the minus-two temperature, or three years without. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted December 2019
Matteo Soria Asti DOCG Extra Dry Bric Prima Bella NV, Piedmont, Italy ($16.00 – Estimate)
One of drier Asti sparklers, at only 11g of sugar in that zone of extreme possibility, in the middle between Brut and Extra-Dry. A real ginger and lightly toasted nut expression of moscato and surely seeming drier than pretty much any other. A tight mousse of a velouté inextricably tied to the chemistry as if a zabaglione whipped to a perfect consistency. White pepper and more complexity than almost any tank fermented sparkling wine that turns a touch bitter at the finish. A really great concept and near excellent execution though something has to give between the methodology and the sugar control. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted December 2019
Matteo Soria Bolla Bea Cuvée Speciale Blanc De Noir, Piedmont, Italy
There is no one making sparkling wines in Castiglione Tinella or just about anywhere in Asti lands like Matteo Soria. The results, especially in Moscato d’Asti are both fascinating and confounding. This however is another story altogether. The Bea Cuvée Speciale Blanc De Noir is 100 per cent pinot noir aged five years on the lees and that is what provides a perceived thickness of texture, like toasty crostini soaked in a viscous stock made from the bones of muscular fowl. Strength begets energy and so it’s quite a brilliant and vigilant bubbly, racy, plush, crystalline of sight and like a hand that tries to seize flowing water. A must try at some point in life. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted December 2019
Good to go!