Moscato d’Asti – A Masterclass

Nov 02, 21 Moscato d’Asti – A Masterclass

Last week I went to the Simply Italian Great Wines tasting at the Westminster Church Halls. I went not only to taste some great wines but also to attend the Moscato d’Asti masterclass presented by Italian wine expert Walter Speller and the Consorzio Asti Director Giacomo Pondini. The producers were also present and were more than happy to introduce their wines along with a bit of background on the vineyards and production.

Walter started off by telling us that there are 3 styles of Asti; Asti Sweet, Asti Dry and Moscato d’Asti. If there was anything that we should take away from the tasting, that was it. But we are jumping ahead.

I wanted to attend this session because I love Moscato d’ Asti but before this tasting, I knew practically nothing about it. One of the things that I missed the most during lockdown was attending wine masterclasses. Oh sure, we had plenty of zoom tastings but honestly, they just weren’t able to capture the immediacy of a proper masterclass. So let’s begin with the basics.

Moscato d'Asti and Walter Speller
Walter Speller conducting the masterclass

Asti is a region in Piemonte very close to Barolo and Barbaresco. Speaking of, those two plus Asti are the only 3 Italian wines that must be made with 100% of each particular grape. Moscato d’ Asti is 100% Moscato Bianco. Heady company to be in, for certain. The region is a designated UNESCO heritage site and is the oldest sparkling wine of Italy (first mentioned in 1606 by Giovanni Croce) and the oldest consorzio (founded 1933). The vineyards are situated on the hillsides, most having a 15 degree angle so harvest is done manually.

Needless to say, it has a very long history as a semi sweet wine made by single fermentation only, there is no base wine, all fermentation starts in the bottle. It’s what we now call the Ancestral Method of wine making. Asti is also a DOCG, classified in 1993.

There are 9900 ha of vineyards in the region and 4000 growers. What that translates into is roughly each producer having 2 ha each. Thus co-ops are common in the region although there are individual producers in Asti.

Moscato d'Asti producers
Moscato d’ Asti producers with Walter Speller (center)

One of the 3 styles is Asti Spumante Secco Dry, launched in 2018 it has roughly 17g/ltr of sugar with 11.5% alcohol. It also has the most pressure of the wines produced. Most would consider this a demi-sec. We didn’t try any, this was just for our information.

The 2nd style is Asti Spumante Dolce which has 89/100 g/ltr of sugar and 9% alcohol. Again we didn’t try this,

Finally we got the Moscato d’Asti. It has 120/130 g/ltr sugar and alcohol levels of 4.5% – 6.5 % alcohol with pressure at about 2.5 millibars of pressure.

We tasted the following 5 wines:

Marco Bonfante, Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2021

Vinchio Vaglio, Valamasca, Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2020

Vini Bocchino, Sori dei Fiori, Moscato d’Asti 2020

Matteo Soria, Soria, Moscato d’Asti Canelli DOCG 2020

Cascina Barisel, Moscato d’Asti, Canelli DOCG 2020

I should mention that the Canelli DOCG is the newest appellation. There are only 18 communes in the appellation. Canelli is the historic heart of Italian sparkling wine.

Moscato d'Asti bottles
Moscato d’Asti

I found all the wines to be delightful, sweet but not cloying with just the right amount of bubbles and acidity. They really are so tasty! Asti is all about the aromatics and these wines all had varying degrees of honey, peach, sage and citrus on the nose and palate.

The producers recommended Moscato d’Asti with pastries, desserts, even Gorgonzola but Walter said he likes to serve it INSTEAD of dessert. I have to say I agree with Walter but if a sweet dessert was served alongside it, I wouldn’t say no! So next time you’re planning a dinner party, why not serve a bottle of Moscato d’Asti instead, you won’t regret it.

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