This DOCG sparkling white is produced in regions within Alessandria and Cuneo, in the province of Asti. It is a semi-sweet frizzante, known for its fruity flavours and low alcohol content. Connoisseurs call it the ultimate dessert wine. It has a naturally perky, elevating sweetness that isn’t too syrupy. The glittering colour is of honeyed straw, with aromas of fresh flowers and springtime blossoms. Flavours of succulent peach, orange-fleshed melon and ripe apricot dominate, complimented by subtle notes of overripe fruit. It also works well as an indulgent aperitif, or lazy late-afternoon treat.
Asti has been the home to the moscato bianco grape for centuries, and the rich, marly soils of its estates are perfect for yields of full bodied grapes high in sugar. In the sixteenth century, the recipe for Moscato emerged through the efforts of Giovan Batista Croce, a renowned jeweller who decided to opt out of his chosen profession for a career in viticulture. He meticulously outlined the process of making true Moscato in his publication, Of the Excellence and Diversity of Wines that are made on the Mountain of Turin. According to Croce, grapes must be separated from their stems before pressing, after which the remainder of the must (a pulp including the skins, seeds and flesh of the fruit) is fermented. Further vinification occurs after the removal of the skins, with the rest of the juice filtered several times in order to attain a sweet, clear wine.
In order to be classed as a true Moscato, the wine must be made of 100% moscato bianco grapes, with a semi-sparkling consistency unlike that of the more vigorous and foamy spumante. The reason why Moscato has relatively low alcohol content is because of the fermentation process, which is arrested at an earlier stage. It occurs within a sealed, pressurized tank, which retains all of the carbon dioxide gases that give Moscato its fizz. Once the wine has reached five or six per cent alcohol content, the temperature of the tank is artificially lowered, halting the activity of the ethanol-producing yeast. The yeast is then closely filtered out of the wine.
This gives Moscato d’Asti its refreshing pick-me-up qualities, which work beautifully with a range of regional desserts. It is best enjoyed with a crumbly local panatonne or scrumptious hazelnut pastry. Apricot and mango tarts also benefit from Moscato’s inherent fruitiness, as do fresh strawberries and other cut fruit. For the ultimate indulgent dessert experience, pair with a sublimely creamy pannacotta.
Of the many estates that yield Moscato d’Asti, one of the most fascinating is the commune of Canelli. It was a thriving town in the Middle Ages, and has grown to support a complex network of viticulture as seen in the numerous and cavernous cellars that loom beneath its cobbled streets. Shielded from the elements, these cellars house some of the best wines of the region. It also boasts a world-renowned enoteca, where Moscato d’Asti – and other wine varieties – can be tasted along with a range of delectable, local gastronomical treats.