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!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Coppo: Feet on Canelli ground since 1892

Luigi Coppo is grounded in tradition, family, heritage and by a contiguous connection through generational continuance. That much is clear. I’ve met with and tasted Coppo’s wines three times over the last three years; during Barolo’s Collisioni Festival, July 2017, at Relais San Maurizio in Santo Stefano Belbo, December 2018 and most recently at the family’s Canelli estate in December, 2019. Since 1892 Coppo has been nestled in the favourable company of fellow producers Gancia and Bosco, together forming a link between these three most historical wineries in Canelli. Coppo’s Barbera d’Asti and in particular their Pomorosso cru from Nizza Monferrato’s hills are intimately integral charges and while it may have long been established, the advancing Luigi Coppo led Sparkling wine program will push further than merely rivalling the best of Alta Langa. Lookout Franciacorta. Take heed Champagne. And though these estate masterpieces in constant progress will duly impress sommeliers and collectors worldwide, Luigi Coppo still pulls for the workhorses and insists that “Moscato d’Asti is definitely the heritage of our hills.” That amongst their 56 farmed hectares surely counts for something. This is the actuality and presence of Luigi Coppo in Piemonte: Determined, ambitious and yet always cognizant of his roots. All the Coppos in fact; Gianni, Paolo, Luigi, Roberto and Piero. Feet on Canelli ground since 1892.

Luigi Coppo

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

Much has changed since Luigi’s great-grandfather Piero started the estate in 1892. Today production is 500,000 bottles annually. In another three-pronged producer connection Coppo can make Barolo here in Canelli, along with Scarpa and Bersano. And in 1977 it was Carlo Gancia who as the first in Italy to do so, returned from Champagne to employ moscato in traditional method bubbles. Luigi Coppo is also making use of the Canelli tufo azzuro soils, a mix of blue clay and limestone so ideal for growing grapes to turn them into many variations of sparkling wine. He too embraced the new Alta Langa appellation, beginning in 2010. A specific area was identified, chardonnay and pinot noir were planted and the 30 month lees aging methodology was put into place. Following the dreams of Grandfather Luigi who desired to produce a Bourgogne-style in Piemonte, chardonnay was planted 35 years ago. After nonno passed away in 1994 Luigi’s father Paolo decided to keep the dream alive. Monteriolo sees nine months on lees in barriques; big, buttery, modern and luscious.

Related – Living wine in the moment at Scarpa Winery

The Nizza Classico barbera come from several Monferrato villages while the Pomorosso cru, first made in 1998 sees new French oak for 14-18 months. Moscato d’Asti gets stelvin closures, the wines that age for five to six months are sealed under Diam and real corks for anything longer. The natural barrel cellar was finished in 1970, 42m below ground level. As for the heritage one, says Luigi, “Moscato loves altitude compared to barbera. It’s now time to talk about Moscato d’Asti as a serious wine because it’s very difficult to make. We don’t add sugar or carbonize and it is a vintage wine. These are the three natural and honest things about moscato.”

Related – Rock steady Bersano

What do Coppo’s wines do for us? How are they helpful and perhaps even life-affirming? The truth lies in Luigi Coppo’s humanity and dedication to the things that matter. Something has to save us from ourselves, especially in times such as these, from being inside our heads. Luigi’s wines are the sort to make our wisdom bearable, to rescue us, if nothing else from the ever-bearing fever of begotten biological and ecological destiny. These are the five wines tasted at Coppo.

Coppo 1892 Luigi Coppo Brut Metodo Classico 2016, Vino Spumante Di Qualita DOC, Piedmont, Italy ($40.00 – Estimate)

Traditional method varietal pinot noir in sparkling form, 24 months on its lees and no wood aging. Gainfully fresh and joyous, just a pinch of dosage and regaled, mainly by strawberry but also a sweetly savoury push. Crushable bubbles in the parlance of our times. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Piero Coppo Riserva Del Fondatore 2007, Vino Spumante Di Qualita DOC, Piedmont, Italy ($220.00 – Estimate)

A 60-40 split of pinot noir and chardonnay that was at a near to previous time a varietal wine of the first but with 90 months on the lees and more complex notions conceived it was necessary to bring the latter into the mix. This was disgorged in July 2017. The tartufo bianco in this wine is simply uncanny. That and a toasty precision as if by a Japanese chef’s hand, a toasted piece of perfect white bread to the edges in 100 per cent equality by golden caramelization. Sandwich a piece of reverse seared Kobe rib-eye in between two buttered slices with a side of potato chips and creamy cole slaw and Coppo’s your uncle. Mimic with foie gras if you must. Up to you. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Monteriolo 2017, DOC Piemonte, Piedmont, Italy ($92.00 – Estimate)

A father and an uncle’s chardonnay dedication to their father with a Bourgignons style and philosophy. This just released ’17 saw nine months on lees in French barriques. Toasty in a “Batard” Italianate way, nearly gingered and a low-yield meets high concentration and alcohol (though maxing out at 13.0 per cent) and purposefully ripe. The hot year took away some control and thus the warm biscuit and accentuating spice notes. A little caramelization and while the joy will be a year or so away it will be a shorter lasting period, albeit a highly anticipated and relishing one. Verdant finish with a scape of citrus zests. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Coppo 1892 Barbera D’asti Nizza DOCG Pomorosso 2017, Piedmont, Italy ($74.95 – Estimate)

A blend of areas, Nizza Monferrato, Castelnuovo Calcea and Agliano Terme, first produced in 1984. “If you want to make Nizza all of your vineyards have to face south,“ explains Luigi Coppo. The exposures gather three levels of sunlight and with 15 days of fully extractive macerated practices the tannins are necessarily pulled to their limit. With varietal acidity set to a natural high there is a three-pronged effect that expresses three separate platitudes and layers for long-term effect. Add the warmth of ’17 and the degree of difficulty and margin for error is very stringent. Castelnuovo Calcea was the last to pick and still only at the end of the first week of September. There’s a phenolic-minor note from the vintage that’s ostensibly unavoidable in a composition like this and yet the richness and structure are non-compromised. Tough to follow the ideal 2016. Drink 2021-2028.  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

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

A wine’s a wine for Robbie Burns

A glass of Scotch whisky is pictured on a portrait of Robbie Burns.
PHOTO: PAT MCGRATH/POSTMEDIA NEWS

as seen on canada.com

“Go fetch to me a pint o wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie.”

He was lionized as the Ploughman’s Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire, writer, lyricist and favourite son of Scotland. Robert “Rabbie” Burns, Robden of Solway Firth, is the most famous Scot ever, no matter how many times Braveheart replays on TV. William Wallace got nothin’ on Robbie, who penned “Scots Wha Hae” and “Auld Lang Syne.” And yes, the bard liked his wine.

Robbie Burns day falls on Friday, January 25th, commemorating the writer’s birth date in 1759. Revelers will listen to pipers, sip wee drams of Scotch and scarf down balloons of Haggis. The Irish will join the party, if only for a day, donning the plaid and pouring a stout or two. This is the Scottish beer I plan to crack open on Friday.

Innis & Gunn Rum Finish (224881, $3.35) offers the thought of dried apricots, soaked and swelling, drizzled with agave and then stewed with black licorice and carob. Bold Scot this Innis, “well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.” Holy malted milk Batman! Just slightly chilled, this Edinburgh elixir hints at sweet and stout. Happiness is a warm Gunn.  90

If it must be Scotch for you on Friday, look to Margaret Swaine for advice. The Robert Burns World Federation noted that Rabbie “would be astonished at his fame today,” and I would add that he might be rolling about in his proverbial grave at the thought of pairing fine wine with his countrymen’s modern-day celebrations. Let’s be honest here. Scotch and beer don’t speak to every Scot on the planet and certainly not to the rest of us who want to partake in the festivities. So, out on another limb I go. Failing the sudden import of Campbells Bobbie Burns Shiraz, here are four wines to raise a glass to the poet on January 25th.

Raise a glass to Robbie Burns

The grapes: Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nerello Cappuccio, Magliocco and Sangiovese

The history: Mostly indigenous varietal blend from Calabria at the toe of the Italian peninsula

The lowdown: Exotic and unusual, a red wine unlike anything you will have ever tried

The food match: Traditional Haggis

Odoardi Savuto 2006 (303057, $13.95) is something I have never nosed before. Truffles, mushroom, soy sauce, balsamic, caramelized onion and an Arran-esque sherry cask note to boot. Juicy toffee candy apple, coffee, earth, tobacco and fruit leather. So unusual and absolutely worth the $14 flyer.  87

The grape: Moscato Bianco

The history: A versatile varietal that produces a number of wine styles and sweetness levels. In Piedmont it is light, sparkling and sweet

The lowdown: Weighs in at a mere 5.5% abv, like beer, perfect for a Burnsian night

The food match: Champit Tatties

Ricossa Antica Casa Moscato D’Asti 2011 (72272, $15.95) effervesces ever so slightly and whiffs white flowers. Sweet and honeyed, nearing a golden amber reminiscent of a Highland Whisky. Marmalade, waxy lemon and candied ginger are present and the wine is never cloying. Studious prototype.  89  @SelectWines_BC

The grape: Merlot

The history: Kitschy label originated in St. Helena, California. Often donated to charity auctions

The lowdown: A wine you might want to hate but it’s astonishingly beautiful and complex

The food match: Lamb, Barley, Wilted Greens and Roast Roots

Marilyn 25 Anniversary Merlot 2009 (306738, $39.95, B.C. 491357, $41.99)  may be to some a “wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie” but it’s really more man than a mouse. Firm and taut yet rounded and full-bodied, this is voluptuous and irresistible stuff. Hang out with Marilyn and you might get to meet the kind of people Maf met. Some do like it hot and with a noticeable smokey peat, alcohol note, hot is what you get. A bombshell.  90  @MarilynWines

The grape: Riesling

The history: From John Howard on the Niagara Peninsula

The lowdown: Deeper than many of its peers, probably because “we kept them outdoors for a few days longer”

The food match: Cranachan

Megalomaniac Coldhearted Riesling Icewine 2008 (243519, 200 mL, $29.95) is a wonderful rendition of winter harvest Ontario Riesling. Candied peach, succulent orange marmalade and vanilla conjoin with Speyside-like lavender and a red, red rose. Grape as barley, wine as deep elixir. A fascinating conundrum. Icewine possessed of a Riesling riddle, wrapped in a brave mystery, inside a coldhearted enigma, “that’s sweetly played in tune.”  92  @megalomaniacwns @ProfileWineGrp

Good to go!