Neighboring on Barbaresco and close to Barolo, the Asti region is located in the lower left corner of Piedmont, northern Italy. The territory is UNESCO protected, reflecting the distinct “sense of place” expressed in its wines. Although it is a tiny area, there is a lot of diversity in the soil composition and climate, which leads to different terroirs.
The cultivated areas are very specific, from super steep hillsides to the lower valleys, which additionally contributes distinct characteristics to the wines. The steep sites [200-600 meters above sea level] are known for their limestone and sandy soils, which bestow a delicate, airy edge, whilst the lower vineyards have sedimentary soils resulting in more concentration and richness of flavour.
Nearly all of Moscato d’Asti estates are small, family wineries, with many of the winemakers passionately following in the footsteps of their grandparents and great grandparents. In fact, 95% of the winemakers in Asti are farmers, sharing a proud motto of “history equals skill”. Additionally, the majority of Moscato d’Asti winemakers are prominent producers of renowned Barolo and fresh Barbera d’Asti. The same passion and high quality found in their acclaimed red wines is also in their Moscato d’Asti wines.
Moscato d’Asti is made only from the Moscato Bianco grape. Cultivated since ancient Roman times, it is the variety from which all other varieties of Moscato derive from [there are hundreds of types!]. One of the many reasons for its lengthy history is that Moscato Bianco has the highest level of Terpenes of all the Moscato varieties. Terpenes are organic compounds found in certain plants that have an aromatic quality, used for a variety of biological purposes. They range greatly in fragrance from fruit and floral to woodsy and herbaceous, which makes Moscato d’Asti highly aromatic and gives it its renowned floral, peach and sage aromas.
Moscato d’Asti is produced naturally; without the addition of sugar or CO2. The gently sparkling bubbles are generated during the natural fermentation process that occurs in autoclave. During fermentation, the yeast eats the sugars, producing alcohol and CO2. The temperature is lowered towards the end of fermentation to 32F, capturing the CO2 and the sweetness from the natural sugars inherent in the grape.
Moscato Bianco has a very short, precise harvest timeframe. If picked too late, then the wine will be too sweet, picked early, then it will be too acidic. Harvest has to be at the exact right moment to get perfect balance of sugar, aroma and acidity. It’s not just the growers checking constantly for this precise time, the Asti DOCG Consorzio also monitors the growing cycle for the exact moment of correct ripeness.
Climate change was a large part of the conversation at this year’s tasting. Moscato Bianco, along with the Brachetto grape, are the first grapes to be harvested in Piemonte. Typically, harvest is around the middle of September. The warmer temperatures mean the grapes have to be picked earlier, in fact the past 2 years, harvest has been pushed all the way to August 15th. The hotter temperatures also increase the sugar level in the grapes, making it difficult to keep the alcohol levels low. Additionally, the decreased amount of snow during the winter is causing the water table to drop. This is an area that does not irrigate, so they depend on the reserves of water contained in the soil.
I am always honored to attend tastings and master classes where the wines are presented by the winemakers. Abounding with all kinds of winemaking and vintage specifics, it is the closest experience to actually visiting the winery. Organized by the Consorzio dell’Asti DOCG, the following 5 wines from the 2018 vintage were selected for the class and presented by their respective winemakers; Luigi Coppo of Coppo, Marco Dogliotti of Romano Dogliotti, Gianpiero Scavino of Ceretto, Stefano Chiarlo of Michele Chiarlo and Andrea Costa of Marenco. They are all produced using organic and sustainable methods. The average price is $15. The 2018 vintage is being described as a “classic and traditional” expression of Moscato Bianco. The wines display the wide range of flavours and style Moscato d’Asti is known for, from lush tropical fruit and spices to shimmering minerality and fresh herbs.
Coppo ‘Moncalvina’ Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018
Luigi Coppo is the 4th generation of his family to craft wines in Canelli, the heart of Moscato d’Asti. He is passionately dedicated to “transferring the grape into wine”.
Pale straw yellow in colour with aromas of gardenia, ylang ylang, peach, apricot and soft spice. Peach, nectarine, pear and honeysuckle are glossed by fresh acidity. Juicy fruit lingers on the lush finish.
Romano Dogliotti ‘La Caudrina’ Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018
5th generation winemaker Marco Dogliotti presented this cru Moscato from 25 year old vines.
Gold in colour with aromas of apricot, peach, soft spice, honeysuckle and an herbaceous trace. Fresh acidity highlights silky peach, nectarine and orange blossom. Fruit and honey shimmer on the lengthy finish.
Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’ Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018
From the legendary Michele Chiarlo estate, vines are in the famed white sandy soils of Asti.
Pale gold in colour with aromas of orange blossom, peach, apricot, spice and minerality. A dash of baking spice compliments apple, peach, nectarine and pear. Fresh acidity and minerality accent the creamy texture. Honeyed fruit lingers between each sunny sip.
Ceretto ‘I Vignaioli di Santo Stefano’ Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018
From the renowned Ceretto family, consistently one of my favorites with its distinctive minerality.
Gold in colour with engaging aromas of citrus blossom, geranium, musk, apricot, sage and minerality. Mineral washed peach, apricot, nectarine, plum and a hint of almond are accented by fresh acidity. Mango and peach linger between each lush, refreshing sip.
Marenco ‘Scrapona’ Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018
Andrea Marenco is the 3rd generation of his family to passionately tend the vines in Strevi. This Moscato is from a single vineyard with 23 year old vines.
Pale gold in colour with aromas of ylang ylang, almond, peach, apricot and cinnamon. Orange blossom, rich juicy peach, nectarine and mango along with a splash of minerality are joined by fresh acidity. Creamy texture highlights the play of floral and fruit on the lengthy finish.
Media event hosted by Consorzio dell’Asti DOCG.