The grace of Asti…

Some of the world’s most renowned wine styles place great emphasis on varietal and terroir expressiveness. Still, few rely more transparently on the character of the grapes from which they are produced as the bubbly styles – both spumante and frizzante – from the Asti DOCG. The craftsmanship, in both vineyard and cellar, behind the production of Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti is on full display in each bottle, uncompromisingly revealing the quality of the fruit used and the technical expertise of the winemaker.

In this sense, these are some of the most honest wines you will ever come across, where faults and imbalances become fully apparent and cannot be obscured by cellar tricks or ageing. What you taste is what you get, and what you get is a direct and full expression of the Moscato Bianco grapes that grow on the hills of the DOCG’s 51 municipalities, covering approximately 10,000ha of vineyards.

The pursuit of complexity and balance involves a careful understanding of the character of Moscato, of its aromatic identity and how the latter evolves, both from a chemically and organoleptic point of view, over time.

A recent tasting hosted by the Consorzio Asti DOCG at its headquarters in Isola d’Asti provided a rare opportunity to taste through a wide array of bottles and producers, for a unique understanding of the denomination’s styles and of their incredible potential in the international context.

Quality and craftsmanship

The first, and perhaps main, conclusion of the tasting was the consistent quality and typicity of the wines on show. Examples of heavy-handed winemaking and/or questionable selection of fruit material were rare, and simply served to confirm the overall high standard, committed to the pure expression of the Moscato Bianco and based on a deep knowledge of the grape and of the Asti DOCG styles.

This should not come as a surprise in a region so strongly linked, historically as well as economically, to the cultivation of Moscato Bianco. It is also fiercely – and rightly – proud of the rolling hills combed by vinerows and the unique underground wine cathedrals, both of which are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage record.

Investment in quality control and research also play an important role. This is, after all, the place where, in 1895, Federico Martinotti invented the eponymous sparkling wine production method (otherwise known as the tank method), through which almost all Asti DOCG wines are produced (some Asti Spumantes are now produced following the traditional method).

Painstaking efforts to follow the evolution of the grapes leading up to harvest, and the profile of the musts both after pressing and before fermentation guarantee a traceable analysis linking fruit to glass. The Consorzio’s own lab supports producers in this quest, ensuring quality and typicity.

Different faces of Asti DOCG

Not all Asti Spumante wines are born equal, as this tasting showed. Producers clearly chose different ripeness levels and fermentation temperatures, resulting in wines very different in structure and aromatic intensity.

Among the Dolces the ones that stand out have an intriguing saltiness that supports the aromatic openness, making them seductive, creamy and food friendly. The Extra Dry and Dry styles showed particularly well, with an elegant moreishness and good mineral backbone.

The playfulness of the Moscato aromas on a dry palate really adds a level of complexity and intrigue. The fact that some of the Extra Dry examples resort to a secondary fermentation (also in tank) opens an interesting realm of possibilities – this is definitely a style to watch.

Savoury appeal Moscato d’Asti is mostly associated with a specific array of delicate aromas (fresh grapes, fleshy citrus, roses, jasmine, white orchard fruit), characteristic of the fresh Moscato Bianco grapes, and with the preservation of the clarity and definition of these notes.

Tasting through over 60 examples from the 2021 vintage…

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The grace of Asti…  
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