Asti is located in the south-east of Italy's north-western Piedmont region. It is thought to have been home to the Moscato Bianco grape for centuries, and written about in the Statues of the Commune of Cannelli in the 1200s. This area produces Italy's most famous sparkling wine, originally named Asti Spumante, but on receiving its higher DOCG classification in 1994, it was renamed Asti. The wine-producing area expands over much of Asti and some parts of the provinces of Cuneo and Alessandria.
Asti has made a name for itself as an easy-drinking, sweet sparkling wine at an affordable price. The sweetness is a result of the naturally high sugar levels found in the Moscato grape. Most of the wine is made in large, stainless-steel tanks produced in a modified version of the Charmat method, where the must (grape juice and solids) is filtered and then stored in the tanks at near-freezing temperatures to prevent fermentation. At a later time the must is inoculated with yeast to allow fermentation to begin. To avoid losing carbon dioxide during this time, the process takes place in large sealed tanks. Once the alcohol and residual sugar levels have reached those required, the wine is chilled very quickly to stop the fermentation, then filtered, bottled and corked. Although this method is the preferred choice of many producers, some Astis are made using the Metodo Classico. Generally, these spumantes have a potential alcohol that is much lower than most wines, typically at 9% alcohol by volume.
Like its fellow Moscato DOCG wine, Moscato d’Asti, Asti must be made from 100% Moscato Bianco grapes. The main differences between these two wines are the sweetness and alcohol levels: Moscati d’Asti is the sweeter of the two and Asti has a higher level of alcohol. This is because the fermentation of Moscato d’Asti is halted earlier, which results in higher levels of residual sugar and lower levels of alcohol. The other difference is that Moscato d’Asti is made in a frizzante style as opposed to a spumante. Asti is also packaged like Champagne with a wired-down cork, unlike Moscato d’Asti which only requires a standard cork due to lower levels of carbon dioxide. Asti's character is generally fresh and crisp with lively grapey flavors and should be consumed young.