Asti DOCG 2022 – Special Report

 

Asti’s ascent from authenticity to sustainability and unmistakable wines

as seen on WineAlign

The northwestern Italian territory of Asti DOCG covers the area of Langhe, Roero and Monferrato and together they form the first Italian wine landscape to be recognized as a UNESCO heritage site. The grape variety moscato bianco grows in vineyards in all three to cover the counties of Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria. The area is a cultural and modern gem in the heart of Piedmont (Piemonte, in Italian), about 55 kilometres east of Turin in the plain of the Tanaro River. A sense of spirit, community and great heart echoes and reverberates through wines voracious in their appetite to capture both traditions and also the new and forward thinking Asti stories. Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti are challenging wines to produce but these folkloric producers have to do it. It Is their heritage, imperative and pleasure.

Asti Spumante DOCG and Moscato d’Asti DOCG are considered as the two most authentically aromatic Italian white wines and rank among the great wines of Piedmont. Asti Spumante is undoubtedly the world’s best-known aromatic sparkling wine and Moscato d’Asti are among the few wines in which the sensory qualities of the grapes remain unaltered as a result of soft pressing and incomplete alcoholic fermentation. Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti are declinations of the same grape variety, made from 100 per cent moscato bianco grapes that grow on limestone soils in the UNESCO World Heritage hills between Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo. Asti Spumante can be tasted in different versions, from Extra Dry, Dry, Brut and the most popular Dolce, but also in the classic method or “Metodo Classico” version.

Asti DOCG Aromas

Asti Spumante DOCG

Asti Spumante DOCG is made entirely from moscato bianco grapes, gaining benefit from chalky soils and microclimates typical of hilly areas. It has a characteristic musky flavour, well-balanced sweetness, acidity and moderate alcohol content. In recent years Asti producers have set an important new course, paving the way to expanding the range of Asti styles, based on different residual sugar levels from Demi-Sec through Extra-Brut.

The concentration of the precious aromatic substances (called linalool) produced by the moscato bianco berries peaks in the last few weeks before the grapes are harvested in early September. Harvesting is still accomplished by hand to keep the bunches whole and preserve the characteristic aroma of the grapes – factors that contribute to making Asti Spumante the most widely consumed aromatic sparkling wine in the world.

Characterized by particularly fine and persistent beading, Asti offers a fresh mouthfeel that makes it suitable as a full-meal wine. On the nose, one can appreciate a delicate floral (acacia, lavender, sage) and fruity (apple, pear, banana) bouquet.

  • DOCG Status since: 1993
  • Grape variety: moscato bianco
  • Maximum grape yield: 10 tons/ha
  • Color: straw to pale gold
  • Foam: fine and persistent
  • Nose: fragrant, floral, with hints of linden and acacia
  • Taste: delicately sweet, aromatic, well-balanced
  • Clarity: brilliant
  • Minimum potential alcohol content: 11.5 per cent by volume; minimum actual alcohol seven per cent by volume for Asti Dolce and approximately 11 per cent for the other styles from Demi-Sec to Pas Dosé

Moscato d’Asti

Moscato d’Asti DOCG

Following the recognition of the Asti Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin (DOCG) status in 1993, Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti were identified as two different historical expressions of the same varietal. Moscato d’Asti DOCG is one of the most characteristic products of the Piedmontese wine tradition. The wine has a distinctively intense musky aroma of the grapes it is made from, a delicate flavour that is reminiscent of wisteria and linden, peach and apricot, with hints of sage, lemon and orange blossom. It has some residual sugar and a low alcohol content.

Moscato d’Asti DOCG is not technically or ostensibly a sparkling wine, as it only undergoes partial fermentation in pressure tanks. Fermentation is terminated when an alcohol content of about five per cent alcohol by volume is reached. The use of cold chain technology in the production process means the aromas and flavours of the grapes are preserved and the product can be stabilized, ready for storage and transportation.

  • DOCG Status since: 1993
  • Grape variety: moscato bianco
  • Maximum grape yield: 10 tons/ha
  • Colour: straw yellow
  • Foam: fine and persistent
  • Nose: fragrant, floral, with hints of sage
  • Taste: delicately sweet, aromatic, characteristic
  • Clarity: brilliant
  • Minimum potential alcohol content: 11 per cent by volume; minimum actual alcohol 4.5 per cent by volume

For Moscato d’Asti 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. Often only a small percentage is used for the top cuvée. The rest of the must is kept at freezing temperature (approximately -2 degrees celsius) and there are producers that keep past vintages (generally up to four) for the production of their 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.

As for recent vintages, 2021 is certainly close to the top while 2020 is widely considered to be la crème de la crème. That said 2019 was not the most aromatic, like 2016, very hot and the moscato grape does not need too much sun. 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. Smell an example of 17 and note the exaggerated development, rich and full of glycerin, nearly cloying. The 2016s are certainly sweet and somewhat out of balance, but there is delicacy, floral notes and it’s never cloying. The ’18s are 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 producers are after. When fermentation happens those aromas increase by 80 per cent. There’s the rub and the magic. Special terroirs like Castiglione Tinella are the kind that breed some of the highest acidity for moscato. A pH that averages out at 3.4 when bottled will lower to 3.1, because this is when the acidity rises.

Consorzio dell’Asti

The Consorzio coordinates and promotes the area of origin of moscato bianco grapes, whose cultivation covers approximately 10,000 hectares across 51 municipalities of the provinces of Alessandria, Asti and Cuneo. There are 10,000 hectares of vineyards for these lightly sparkling, off-dry to sweet Asti white wines and the Consorzio is entrusted to promote and protect the wines in the appellation. They are widely imitated and so undertaking legal action and registering trademarks in every country is a necessary side-hustle of the job. In terms of producer requests, all changes and modifications applied for must be approved by the consortium. An integral aspect of the work involves field, vineyard as well as laboratory research. More than 1,400 ha have a gradient over 40 per cent, with 330 hectares of this area over 50 per cent. These are vineyards historically named sorì, where no mechanical equipment can be used and vines are tended exclusively by hand. The Asti DOCG hills were the first vineyard landscape to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Born in 1932, the Consortium for the Promotion of Asti has a clear mission: to perform all the necessary actions to protect, promote and enhance the value of Asti and Moscato d’Asti, in Italy and the world. The sustainable manifesto is clear and one day spent inside the offices of the Consortium will instruct and explain all you need to know about economic, social, environmental, export, security and what Italians refer to as disciplinare policies. Regulations regarding vineyard yields, levels of alcohol, sugar, extract and bars of pressure are so defined as to ensure current production and sales viability but also explicitly what the next generation will need to carry the work forward.

Moscato Bianco

The Consortium carries out technical assistance, draws up research proposals and economic assessments aimed at enhancing the value of the designation. It is there to protect and safeguard from improper use, unfair competition and counterfeiting, Asti’s officers carry out, on behalf of all those who are subject to the designation-related checks, the functions of protection, promotion and valourization, as well as informing consumers and generally looking after special interests. Policies are adopted regulating supply in order to contribute to improved coordination of the designation’s distribution on the market, through consultations with sector representatives. The consorzio plans for improving the quality of the products that must appear before judicial and administrative authorities, in Italy and abroad, in order to safeguard and protect the designation and defend the interests and rights of the producers. Surveillance actions are carried out, mainly in the distribution stage.

The Hills

The hills of the Langhe are elongated, with extended crests and steeper slopes, while those of the Monferrato are rounder and gentler to look upon. Two different landscapes, with infinite variations. Where life prospers among the orderly rows of grapevines, tended by hand as they have always been. Where the seasons bring new colors against the majestic crown of the Alps, where the horizon stretches out to infinity. Where every detail amazes and warms the heart, to be treasured forever. Un territorio Patrimonio dell’Umanità. Sedimentary soils that date back 10-15 million years predominate. One is the Pliocenic basin of Asti to the northeast. The to the west around Canelli there are Serravallian (Middle Miocene) soils, stratified layers of blue clay, sand and lime. Many believe this to be the best composition for Moscato d’Asti. To the east in the area of Strevi the ground is Tortonian (late Miocene), younger at five to 10 million years, with more clay and more lime in deeper layers and colour.

The crux of the varietal situation is twofold, at once for vineyards subsisting at the foot of the Alps and also drawing energy being proximate to the sea. Seventy-five per cent of the vineyards are directly protected by the mountains. As seemingly everywhere, climate is changing here too. In the last 15 years average temperatures have increased by one degree. In the past 58 years the average increase has been by two. More important are temperature abnormalities. The centrepiece moscato bianco is a very sensitive grape and easily subjected to diseases.

Guyot training is appropriate for poor quality soils and lower yields. Broken down by altitude, 44 per cent of the vineyards are at 250-300m and 30 per cent at 300-450m. In terms of slope, 2,770 of 9,700ha have a gradient higher than 30 per cent, 336 ha with a gradient of more than 50. “Heroic agriculture” is the moniker bestowed. “The Sorì vineyards.” No mechanization is employed and a certain crucial must is picking times, especially in terms of the preservation of moscato bianco’s aromatic compounds.  Yields per hectare are set at 9.5 tonnes for Asti and Moscato d’Asti.

Moscato Vineyard

The Consortium’s Laboratorio Analisi for the Tutela dell’Asti DOCG is one of the most advanced and technologically impressive anywhere, with the mechanization capable of carrying out a diverse set of analyses. Under the guise of Guido Bezzo, who incidentally also happens to be a virtuoso trumpeter, the lab exerts its expertise far beyond pedestrian testing of alcohol, sugar and varietal purity. It delves deeper than mere organoleptic conclusions. The lab’s research works to investigate the impact analysis results for one 750 mL bottle of Asti wine covering categories that includes a mind-boggling set of parameters: Climate change; Reduction of the ozone layer; Toxicity and carcinogenic effects on humans; Particulate/smog caused by emissions of inorganic substances; Ionizing radiation effects on human inorganic health; Photochemical ozone formation; Acidification; Terrestrial, aquatic and marine eutrophication; Ecotoxicity in freshwater aquatic environments; Soil transformation; Resource depletion in water, minerals and fossils. Heady stuff indeed.

The 60,000 tonnes kept at negative four degrees in summer costs dearly in equipment and energy. It is widely believed that juice can stay in tank for up to two years without losing aromatic concentration. Fermentation takes place at 20 degrees in pressure tanks developed by Italian sparkling wine pioneer Dr. Federico Martinotti, director of the Research Institute for the Wine of Asti, who patented the method in 1895. Martinotti is credited with creating the method of developing the bubbles inside of tanks. The juice can stand pressures of more than 10 bars. Yeasts must be stopped abruptly (in a matter of a few hours) to avoid off odours and flavours, i.e rotten egg and cooked cabbage. Centrifuge and filters are used. In the past pasteurization at 50 degrees was the norm but now micro filtration screens out the yeast (at 0.2 microns) and stabilizes the wines. Agronomist/viticuilturalist Daniele Eberle also explains how Fratelli Gancia used the same techniques that the French used here in Piemonte in the late 1800s. The city of Canelli, cultural home of Asti holds the highest concentration of companies that make all the equipment necessary for bottling Spumante wines.

The association soon yielded positive results. Production gradually increased from two million bottles in the 1940s to forty million in the 1970s. A figure more than doubled nowadays. The history of the Consortium is all Piedmontese and begins from the town that is considered the capital par excellence of spumante: Canelli. It was in its cellars that, day after day, with dedication and affection, techniques were refined that nowadays give us a fine, delicate and unmistakeable sparkling wine like Asti DOCG. The know-how handed down for generations, together with the latest scientific discoveries, have led to the optimization of the production process and the definition of important procedures indispensable to guarantee the high quality of Asti DOCG.

Good to go!

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Twitter: @mgodello

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Matteo Soria’s made to order Moscato d’Asti

    Eleonora Bragnero and Matteo Soria

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.

Related – Three DOCG pillars of Asti: Secco, Dolce, Moscato d’Asti

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.”

Castiglione Tinella

Related – Coppo: Feet on Canelli ground since 1892

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!

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Twitter: @mgodello

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Three DOCG pillars of Asti: Secco, Dolce, Moscato d’Asti

For a wine region to succeed it must exercise sustainable principles and do so by meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Investment argues for three main pillars: economic, environmental, and social, a.k.a. people, planet and profits. In scientific terms sustainability refers to an ecosystem’s ability to exist constantly at a cost within a universe that evolves towards thermodynamic equilibrium within a state of maximum entropy. A modern vernacular would speak of the coexistence between humans and their host biosphere. A transfer of these ideological theories into wine-speak says that in Asti the growers, producers and their appointed Tutela dell’Asti DOCG chaperones have collectively agreed to set the appellative wines of Asti Secco DOCG, Asti Dolce DOCG and Moscato d’Asti DOCG as representative of their present and future. Three pillars of Asti.

“Born in 1932, the Consortium for the Promotion of Asti has a clear mission: to perform all the necessary actions to protect, promote and enhance the value of Asti and Moscato d’Asti, in Italy and the world.” The sustainable manifesto is clear and one day spent inside the offices of the Consortium will instruct and explain all you need to know about economic, social, environmental, export, security and what Italians refer to as disciplinare policies. Regulations regarding vineyard yields, levels of alcohol, sugar, extract and bars of pressure are so defined as to ensure current production and sales viability but also explicitly what the next generation will need to carry the work forward.

Guido Bezzo and the Asti lab crew

The Consortium’s Laboritorio Analisi for the Tutela dell’Asti DOCG is one of the most advanced and technologically impressive anywhere, with the mechanization capable of carrying out a diverse set of analyses. Under the guise of Guido Bezzo, who incidentally also happens to be a virtuoso trumpeter, the lab exerts its expertise far beyond pedestrian testing of alcohol, sugar and varietal purity. It delves deeper than mere organoleptic conclusions. The lab’s research works to investigate the impact analysis results for one 750 mL bottle of Asti wine covering categories that includes a mind-boggling set of parameters: Climate change; Reduction of the ozone layer; Toxicity and carcinogenic effects on humans; Particulate/smog caused by emissions of inorganic substances; Ionizing radiation effects on human inorganic health; Photochemical ozone formation; Acidification; Terrestrial, aquatic and marine eutrophication; Ecotoxicity in freshwater aquatic environments; Soil transformation; Resource depletion in water, minerals and fossils. Heady stuff indeed.

Dinner at Teatro Alfieri, Asti with President of the Consorzio Moscato d’Asti DOCG President Romano Dogliotti

La Caudrina’s Romano Dogliotti is President of the Consorzio dell’Asti DOCG and like so many Langhe winemakers, he is intrinsically tied to tradition but with a decisive openness to new technologies. In line withy many of his compatriots, Dogliotto’s Moscato d’Asti is made by putting yeast and moscato grape must in an autoclave. The must ferments at low temperature in this reinforced fermentation vessel until about half the natural sugar is consumed, then the wine is quickly passed through a micron filter to arrest the fermentation. The result is Moscato d’Asti at five and a half degrees of alcohol by volume and enough residual sweetness to conjure the feeling of eating ripe orchard fruit. In Asti the moscato comes out three ways: Secco, Dolce, Moscato d’Asti.

There are 10,000 hectares of vineyards for these lightly sparkling, off-dry to sweet Asti white wines and the Consorzio is entrusted to promote and protect the wines in the appellation. They are widely imitated and so undertaking legal action and registering trademarks in every country is a necessary side-hustle of the job. In terms of producer requests, all changes and modifications applied for must be approved by the consortium. An integral aspect of the work involves field, vineyard as well as laboratory research.

Teatro Alfieri, Asti

Asti covers parts of 52 communes, three provinces; Asti, Cuneo, Alessandria and three territories; Langhe, Roero and Monferrato. The vineyard landscape of these three famous Piedmontese areas were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2014, Un territorio Patrimonio dell’Umanità. Sedimentary soils that date back 10-15 million years predominate. One is the Pliocenic basin of Asti to the northeast. The to the west around Canelli there are Serravallian (Middle Miocene) soils, stratified layers of blue clay, sand and lime. Many believe this to be the best composition for Moscato d’Asti. To the east in the area of Strevi the ground is Tortonian (late Miocene), younger at five to 10 million years, with more clay and more lime in deeper layers and colour. 

Laboritorio Analisi for the Tutela dell’Asti DOCG

The crux of the varietal situation is twofold, at once for vineyards subsisting at the foot of the Alps and also drawing energy being proximate to the sea. Seventy-five per cent of the vineyards are directly protected by the mountains. As seemingly everywhere, climate is changing here too. In the last 15 years average temperatures have increased by one degree. In the past 58 years the average increase has been by two. More important are temperature abnormalities. The centrepiece moscato bianco is a very sensitive grape and easily subjected to diseases. A study of 15 experimental vineyards continues to assess the vintages and the shifting climatic effect on the wines.

Agnolotti al tartufo bianco, Ristorante Cascinale Nuovo (Isola d’Asti – http://www.walterferretto.com)

Guyot training is appropriate for poor quality soils and lower yields. Broken down by altitude, 44 per cent of the vineyards are at 250-300m and 30 per cent at 300-450m. In terms of slope, 2,770 of 9,700ha have a gradient higher than 30 per cent, 336 ha with a gradient of more than 50. “Heroic agriculture” is the moniker bestowed. “The Sorì vineyards.” No mechanization is employed and a certain crucial must is picking times, especially in terms of the preservation of moscato bianco’s aromatic compounds.  Yields per hectare are set at 9.5 tonnes for Asti and Moscato d’Asti, the approximate price at 1.1 Euro.

With Andrea Costa, Vini Marenco

The 60,000 tonnes kept at negative four degrees in summer costs dearly in equipment and energy. It is widely believed that juice can stay in tank for up to two years without losing aromatic concentration. Fermentation takes place at 20 degrees in pressure tanks developed by Italian sparkling wine pioneer Dr. Federico Martinotti, director of the Research Institute for the Wine of Asti, who patented the method in 1895. Martinotti is credited with creating the method of developing the bubbles inside of tanks. The juice can stand pressures of more than 10 bars. Yeasts must be stopped abruptly (in a matter of a few hours) to avoid off odours and flavours, i.e rotten egg and cooked cabbage. Centrifuge and filters are used. In the past pasteurization at 50 degrees was the norm but now micro filtration screens out the yeast (at 0.2 microns) and stabilizes the wines. Agronomist/viticuilturalist Daniele Eberle also explains how Fratelli Gancia used the same techniques that the French used here in Piemonte in the late 1800s. The city of Canelli, cultural home of Asti holds the highest concentration of companies that make all the equipment necessary for bottling Spumante wines.

Étretat – Claude Monet, Palazzo Mazzetti

These are the disciplinare for the three appellation wines:

  • Asti Dolce DOCG: 6-7 per cent alcohol by volume, 90-100 g/L residual sugar and Sparkling at maximum 4-5 bars of pressure
  • Moscato d’Asti DOCG: Minimum 4.5 up to 6.5 per cent alcohol by volume, 120-130 g/L residual sugar and Sparkling at maximum 2.5 bars of pressure 
  • Asti Secco DOCG: Minimum 11.0 per cent alcohol by volume, 17 g/L residual sugar and Sparkling at 3-3.5 maximum bars of pressure

Massive thanks to Mariana Nedic, Marina Nedic, Ana Murguia and the staff at IEEM Communications. Looking back at December travels and work assignments in Italy I now find myself focusing in on the new and forward thinking Moscato d’Asti stories in the heart of Piemonte. Tough wines to produce but these traditional producers have to do it. It Is their heritage, imperative and pleasure. At the Consorzio dell’Asti in Isola d’Asti the steps and stages of Asti’s gently sparkling wines gave way to a blind tasting of the following seven. 

Blind Tasting

Duchessa Lia Asti Secco DOCG Santo Stefano Belbo, Piedmont, Italy

Lime and a soapy entry but on the drier side, likely Asti Secco. Feels like 15 g/L of sugar with gentle and supportive acidity. Somewhere between peach and pear, clean and perhaps too much so. Certainly a fine mousse and persistence. A new style from which the aromatics are diminished and yet the gain in versatility in this case indicates one done well. Does well to avoid the potential of bitters marking the finish. Alcohol is at 11.0 per cent and sugars could be as high as 17 g/L though this seems lower in the 10-12 range. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Acquesi Asti Dolce DOCG, Piedmont, Italy ($13.95)

Asti Dolce for sure, crazy sweet and reminiscent of a lime creamsicle. Aromatic but not overtly so, all controlled by the sugars and so very cloying. Exceptionally foamy, creamed and whipped in mousse. Perfectly suited to flavour a zabaglione to work alongside hazelnuts baked into a soft, crumbly cake. Alcohol at 7.0 per cent and sugars at 90-100 g/L. Drink 2019.  Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Gancia Asti Secco DOCG Cuvée Asti 24 Messi Método Classico 2012, Piedmont, Italy

A wine that owes to the experience of Carlo Gancia in Canelli. Wildly aromatic, a Langhe experiential moment straight away conceived and delivered. A Piedmontese traditional method bubble that is clearly more complex than kin simplicities. Bottle fermented and made from grapes harvested in 2012. Recently disgorged so at least six years on the lees technically Asti Dolce but really no affinity because the secondary and even tertiary aromas are in. Baking scents and oxidative meets caramelized notes are part of the mix, as is this ginger-orange créme brûlée with a healthy compliment of torched sugar flavours. A complex mess of aromatics, next level texture and most of all, multi-developed levels and layers of sweetness. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Bèra Moscato d’ Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy ($29.30)

Now into Moscato d’Asti with the most classic presentation, aromatically effusive, effective, generous and free. The sweetness in such a moscato is so very stone fruit based and subjected to a perfectly ripe squeeze of more than one citrus. Lemon, lime and orange without forgetting the smells of their blossoms. Quite correct and more so, leaving an impression that is not soon left for dust. From fruit grown in Meviglie at the limit of Neive. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti DOCG Nivole 2018, Piedmont, Italy (650440, $9.75, 375ml)

Waxy, aerosol citrus and perhaps a year older with prevalent if weighty acids that settle this Moscato d’Asti into a secondary period. Both aromatics and freshness are diminished though so seem the sugars so the balance is still well-afforded. Ultimately a perfect example of the ripe peach scents so expected from Moscato d’Asti. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Mongioia Moscato d’Asti DOCG Crivella 2016, Piedmont, Italy

Quite toasty and though no wood was used it shows a remarkably semi-oxidative and lightly caramelized character that brings colour, cooked apple and creamy nectarine mousse. It has certainly come to a more interesting and charming place with just a moment’s liquorice and this white fig flavour. Worth some fun and giggles with persistent acids. Fruit from steep vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo in the province of Cuneo at the border of Asti. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted blind at the Asti DOCG consortium, December 2019

Mongioia Moscato d’Asti DOCG Crivella 2003, Piedmont, Italy

Quite the advanced Moscato d’Asti here at the edge of tumbling down from the Sorì. Oxidative and fully caramelized notes, with preserved lemon, torched orange and candied ginger. The sugars are accentuated as a result of the diminishing acidity. Still a joyous showing for a 16 year-old moscato. Fruit from steep vineyards in Santo Stefano Belbo in the province of Cuneo at the border of Asti. Drink 2019.  Tasted December 2019

Tasting next door to Monet

After the Masterclass and blind tasting we transferred to Asti and convened in Palazzo Mazzetti for a walk-around with the producers in the company of a small but exquisite exhibit, “Monet e gli Impressionisti.” These winemakers are finding new success by making use of advanced technologies, higher altitudes, specific soils and identifiable crus. These are the Moscato d’Asti I tasted and the world may know they are to be reckoned with.

Azienda Agricola Cerino Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

A curious and interesting moscato this one, fresh enough and so very basil herbal, then white flowers and lime. A touch refined in white sweetness, also tart, long and elastic. Unique and quite fine. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Gallo Cascina Cabonaldo Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Located in Montabone, halfway between Canelli (to the west) and Acqui Terme (to the southeast). The vineyards at 320m help strengthen the haughty aromatics, even while this moscato acts pale and sallow though clearly fresh, clean and seemingly simple. Nothing wrong with that in fact this is one of the easiest feats of drinking amenability. Direct, correct and highly effective. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Lorenzo Gozzelino and Silviana Ignat

Azienda Agricola Gozzelino Sergio Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Righteous, energetic, ripe and frantic moscato is exemplary as such because it enlivens the heart and enlightens the mind. Big, bouncy, bountiful and welling with blossom aromatics leading to rich, striking, full flavour. Lemon and apricot develop a marmalade of unction, glycerin and natural texture. This fruit from Gozzelino’s vineyards is top notch. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Gozzelino Moscato Passito DOC Piemonte 2012, Piedmont, Italy

Following the manual picking of withered Moscato grapes in November they are pressed and put in refrigerated vats under controlled fermentation. In dessert wine terms for moscato in Piedmont this is the truth, spirited and flashy. Pineapple with an adage of savour in pencil lead and sage of a texture in silken layers. Brazil Nuts are all over the finish as a nougat or an ulterior marzipan. Textbook stuff. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Scagliola Giacomo E Figlio Moscato d’Asti DOCG Sifasol 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Located in Canelli here’s a sweetly viscous moscato very lime-driven from calcareous terroir. High quality acidity off the sorì (top portion) from south-facing vines 70 years of age. High level scents of orange blossom, apricot and sage, so typical of Canelli. Really balanced moscato in every respect. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca di Alpiste Federico e Andrea is located in Mango at 520-550m, one of the highest points in the Langhe and not far from Castagnole. This for moscato is surely something other, something curious, sweetly magical. Hard not to love a glass. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca Moscato d’Asti Vignot DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Terrabianca’s Vignot cru moscato is from Canelli off a south exposure for vines of 65 years-old. One of the richest Moscato d’Asti wines you will ever indulge in the fine, smooth and feathery way of lemon curd, but also paraffin waxy and spiked by a limoncello spirit. Zested, striking, maximizing varietal and stylistic enjoyment. Clearly a cut above and so very singular. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Ristorante Cascinale Nuovo (Isola d’Asti – http://www.walterferretto.com)

Azienda Agricola Terrabianca Moscato d’Asti Vignot DOCG 2012, Piedmont, Italy

A rare opportunity to taste the possibilities in aged Moscato d’Asti, here from Terrabianca’s south-facing Vignot cru in Canelli off of vines of 65 years of age. Vines that soak up maximum sun, not just to promote an oriented sweet richesse but also the ability to age. Now having developed honey and the early stages of petrol and persistent tonal depth. Spurts of lemon are the near-term projection with a real smoulder on the vaporous horizon. Really smart stuff in a world of similitude occupied by the likes of riesling and sémillon. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Cantina Alice Bel Colle Moscato d’Asti DOCG Paiè 2018, Piedmont, Italy

From the hills of Alto Monferrato in and about turn of face with 100 per cent of the moscato grapes subjected to a passito methodology of drying for a few months before turning into sparkling wine. Finishes at 5.5 per cent alcohol and 150 g/L of residual sugar. “It is a new way of showing Moscato d’Asti,” tells the spokesperson on behalf of the choir for 100 members. There can be no argument there. Royally sweet and unequivocally in hyperbole of all the aromatic and fruit concentrated aspects of the Md’A style. Truly haughty and heightened in caricature respect. Is it too much? Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Cantina Tre Secoli Moscato D’asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Located in Canelli Tre Secoli’s moscato is so correct. Combines the full frontal aromatic attack with an easing into back end creaminess and big orange citrus flavour. Perfectly ripe and intentional mild sparkling wine with moments occupied by lemon, lime curd and apricot marmalade. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Moscato d’Asti DOCG Moncalvina “Canelli” 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($23.20 – Estimate)

“Moscato loves altitude as compared to barbera,” tells Luigi Coppo, “and now is the time to think about Moscato d’Asti.” Luigi says it’s a serious wine because it’s difficult to make. No sugars are added or carbonization performed and it’s a vintage wine. These are the three tenets that matter most. From Canelli vineyards between 200-280m and the classicism of construct and effect is pure magic in proper and precise, sleight of hand ability. That’s what it needs to be, no more, no less. Naturally sweet, a pinch of salt and all the orchard fruit; apple, pear, lemon and orange. All together in balance and gift with tannin on a real dry finish. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Fontanafredda Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Intense and sharp, mildly herbal and heavy into the citrus to contrast and compliment the heavy sweetness. Some finishing bitters add a feeling of complexity. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Tartufo Bianco, Ristorante Cascinale Nuovo (Isola d’Asti – http://www.walterferretto.com)

Fontanafredda Moscato d’Asti DOCG Le Fronde 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Here lies Moscato d’Asti at the furthest edge of sweetness and creamy consistency. After the pleasant aromas of peaches and crème frâiche come the stirring moments of a dull anxiety. That feeling of imbalance marks the finish. Drink 2019.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy ($20.00 – Estimate)

The 25th anniversary bottling that combs all the moscato vineyards on the estate though truth be told they all produce quite different wines. “Gianni’s dream was to produce the best moscato ever,” tells sister Paola. The clarity and clean, clean living is evident and with thanks to upstart acidity to balance the sugars. A soil-driven expression of moscato for a fresh and crunchy result. Peaches meet white balsamic for some genuine complexity. Eight to ten bottlings are made each year from wine that sits suspended at one degree in juice format inside steel tanks. At this time of year there is no danger of fermentation. A wine of 5.0 per cent alcohol. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Gianni Doglia Moscato d’Asti DOCG Casa di Bianca 2018, Piedmont, Italy ($20.00 – Estimate)

A single-vineyard moscato from 35 year-old vines and the plot Gianni’s grandfather just knew grew the best vines and so Gianni first decided to separate it from the pack in 2012. And so this particular moscato sees eight or nine months on the lees and finds a next level of complexity for the stylistic and the tradition. Gives a yeasty note on top of green apple, melon, orange blossom and fine herbs. The acidity is greater and so energy is exercised in perpetual motion. The alcohol result is just slightly higher at 5.5 per cent. A wine completely unique in this world that may just deliver some petrol and paraffin with a few years time. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted December 2019

Marenco Moscato d’Asti DOCG Strev 2018, Piedmont, Italy

From Strevi in the province of Alessandria equidistant from both Alba and Asti to form a correct isosceles. Strev is the moscato work of Andrea Costa, winemaker Patrizia Marenco and team. Several vineyards in the area are suited to aromatic varieties because of soil composition (white clay, marl and limestone) off of cooler hillsides at 300-320m. Most important is the diurnal shift between day and night temperature. This is the epitome of aromatic preservation on the lemon-lime-orange freshness scale with good acids and next level goodness. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Andrea Costa and Laura Kaminsky, Vini Marenco

Marenco Moscato d’Asti DOCG Scarpona 2016, Piedmont, Italy

Andrea Costa has a boyish grin and wink in his eye when he delivers this three year-old moscato into my glass and for good reason. This is the revolution in moscato d’asti, the one made so bloody intriguing surely due to innovation projects both in the vineyards and cellar. There’s an affinity here with Collio friulano and sauvignon, namely because of the elasticity and surely the transferrable aromas, in a marine-mountain sandwich effect or what we expect from typical Moscato d’Asti. Moves through passion fruit and mineral-flinty-elemental strikes, so much so the sugars are forgotten. Smouldering, so curious and of more depth than many. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

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

Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti DOCG Nivole 2019, Piedmont, Italy (650440, $9.75, 375ml)

Waxy, aerosol citrus and perhaps a year older with prevalent if weighty acids that settle this Moscato d’Asti into a secondary period. Both aromatics and freshness are diminished though so seem the sugars so the balance is still well-afforded. Ultimately a perfect example of the ripe peach scents so expected from Moscato d’Asti. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Tenuta Langasco Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

Very accomplished moscato from Langasco out of Madonna di Como in the hills surrounding the city of Alba. As aromatic as should be, could be, would be or might ever be desired. You can’t miss the blossoms, peach and citrus, then juiced for maximum effect. The parts are all arranged one, two, three together. Very special. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted December 2019

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio E Vaglio Serra Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019, Piedmont, Italy

A perfectly reasoned and seasoned Moscato d’Asti, blossoms blooming and varietally profiled through their aromatic presence. Very lemon and honeyed as if by Passito but the concentration goers it natural and alone. Clean, caressing and just lovely. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

With the Martini Boys

Viticoltori Associati Vinchio E Vaglio Serra Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018, Piedmont, Italy

Persistently stable, crunchy and crisp moscato from the great cooperative, high in acids and big, brilliant flavours. Grand squeeze of lime juice and has lost nary an aromatic or textural step due to an extra year in bottle, in fact the freshness is on pare if not trying to edge past and exceed the newer 2019. Really fine 2018. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

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