The best known Italian white aromatic sparkling wines are those of the Asti region, especially around the towns of Canelli, Santo Stefano Belbo and Strevi. In the area’s wineries, winemaking techniques have been developed since 1850 and through permanent and constant improvements have allowed the production of two fine and delicate wines: Asti and Moscato d’Asti, both exclusively made from Moscato grapes.
The appellation has been officially delimited since 1932. It lies on the right (south) bank of the Tanaro River in the hills of the Langhe, Roero and Alto Monferrato. The hills in the Langhe are elongated and steep, with long, almost horizontal crests; the more rounded hills in the Monferrato have gentle slopes and cool valley floors that contrast magnificently with the sunny hilltops. The Asti appellation, which was granted DOCG status in 1993, currently covers a total of 24,000 acres in 52 municipalities and involves more than 4,000 businesses in the provinces of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo.
The DOCG produces two historic types of wine: Asti and Moscato d’Asti. The key difference between these two styles lies in the fermentation process, because the grape variety and zones of production are the same.
The traditional Asti DOCG wine, on is fermented in sealed container (a Martinotti-Charmat-method pressure tank) and allowed to reach about 7% alcohol before the fermentation is stopped. Because the carbon dioxide from fermentation is trapped, the wine becomes fully sparkling. The result is an aromatic, sweet, fresh white Spumante (Italian for sparkling wine). Some producers also make small lots of Asti DOCG using the Champagne method with a second fermentation in the bottle after fully completing its initial tank fermentation to produce a slightly drier, though still aromatic, Metodo Classico (actual alcohol: 9% by vol).
|Grape varieties:||moscato 100%|
|Delimited zone:||52 designated municipalities in the provinces of Alessandria, Asti and Cuneo.|
|Type:||Asti (Metodo Martinotti-Charmat, using pressure tanks).|
|Aging requirements:||None (9 months of cellaring for Metodo Classico).|
|Actual alcohol level of wine:||6.0–9.5% (6.0–8.0% for Metodo Classico).|
Moscato, or Muscat, is one of the most widely planted family of grape varieties in the world, with a history as long as any wine grape now grown commercially. It is prized because of its fragrant aromas, natural sweetness, and low acidity, which also characterize the sought-after aromatic dessert wines made from it. In Italy, Muscat’s most important role is in the wines of the Asti region. Moscato bianco (white Muscat) is the third most prevalent grape in Piedmont, accounting for about one-eighth of all production.
Extensive experience with Moscato has made it clear that the best results, in terms of aromatic components, acid/sugar balance, and finesse, are achieved on calcareous soils and in hilly areas, as is typical in the Asti production area. The aromatic compounds of this variety, primarily linalool, which the Moscato bianco grapes produce in great quantity in the last few weeks before harvest, reach their maximum concentration in the berries around the first week of September.