Located in the South East of Italy’s North Western Piedmont region, Asti is thought to have been the home of Moscato Bianco grapes for centuries. It is even documented in the statutes of the Commune of Cannelli in the 1200s. This area produces one of Italy’s most famous sparkling wines, the asti spumante. The name was changed to Asti after it received a higher DOCG classification in 1994. The wine producing area covers much of Asti and even some parts of Alessandria and Cuneo provinces.
Asti made a name for itself as a sweet sparkling wine, easy drinking , and affordable price wine making region. The sweetness in the wine is as a result of the naturally high sugar levels found in the Moscato grape. Most of the wine in Asti is made in large, stainless steel tanks that are produced using a modified version of the Charmat method. This method involves filtering the grape juice and the solids then storing them in the tanks at near freezing temperatures to prevent fermentation from occurring.
Later on, the must is inoculated with yeast to allow the fermentation to begin. Carbon dioxide loss is avoided by sealing the tanks. Once the alcohol and sugar levels reach those required, the wine is then chilled quickly to stop fermentation, filtered, bottled and corked. This method is preferred by many producers but some Astis are manufactured using the Metodo Classico method. Generally, these asti spumante wines have an alcohol content that is lower than most wines (typically 9% by volume).
Just like the Moscato DOCG wines, asti spumante wines must be made 100% from Bianco wines. The main difference between these two wines is the alcohol content and the sweetness. The Moscati d’Asti is the sweeter of the two and the Asti has a higher level of alcohol. This is due to the fact that the fermentation of Moscato d’Asti is halted earlier and this results in lower alcohol levels and higher residual sugar.
The Moscato d’Asti is also made in a frizzante style as opposed to an asti spumante. The astis are packed like champagne with wired-down corks unlike the Moscato d’Asti which only require a standard cork due to lower levels of carbon dioxide in them. Generally, astis are fresh and crisp with lively grapey flavors thus should be consumed young. After 2 years, the wine quickly loses its fresh floral notes and its body becomes heavier and richer. While it’s still drinkable, older astis tend not to exhibit the typical light and fruity flavors normally associated with the wine.
Many of the flavors in asti spumante wine can be tasted in the ripe grapes of Moscato Bianco and this is very unusual since many of the flavors in wine usually come from the phenolic compounds in the skin and pulp that develop in the wine through fermentation and skin maceration. Finished asti wines usually have a floral aroma with peach flavors and enough acidity to balance out the sweetness. The acidity is also versatile enough to enable the wine to be paired with salads, spicy Asian cuisines or drunk as an aperitif.