Moscato d'Asti is a semi-sweet, lightly sparkling (frizzante) wine made from Moscato grapes. It comes from vineyards around the town of Asti, in the south-eastern part of Piedmont, north-western Italy. With its crisp freshness, elegant floral aromas and delicate flavors of peaches and apricots, Moscato d'Asti is one of Italy's most popular wines. (© All Rights Reserved, Wine-Searcher)
Asti has been home to the Moscato Bianco grape for centuries; the variety was written about in the Statues of the Commune of Canelli in the 1200s. In the 16th century the recipe for Moscato d’Asti was created by a renowned Milanese jeweler, Giovan Battista Croce, who had made jewelry for the royal family. He changed careers, purchasing a vineyard and perfecting the creation of the wine. In his publication Of the Excellence and Diversity of Wines that are Made on the Mountain of Turin and How To Make Them, he described how the Moscato Bianco grapes must be separated from the stems before pressing and the must vinified separately from the skins. Additionally, filtering the wine several times resulted in a clean, sweet juice.
The wine production zone is mainly located in Asti and also in some parts of the provinces of Alessandria and Cuneo. Like its fellow Moscato-based DOCG wine, Asti Spumante, it must be made from 100% Moscato Bianco. However this wine is made as a semi-sparkling frizzante as opposed to a foaming spumante, and it is also sweeter and lower in alcohol (typically 4.5–6.5%). This is because the yeast consumes less of the sugar, as fermentation is stopped earlier in Moscato d'Asti than in Asti Spumante.
It is generally fuller and more complex, though not as crisp, and is considered to display more finesse than its sibling. This wine is usually partnered with dessert, particularly with the classic panettone, fruit tarts, or with dry pastries made with hazelnuts or almonds. It can also be enjoyed as a refreshing aperitif.
The official Asti viticultural zone stretches beyond the limits of the Asti province, to both east and west, nudging in the Cuneo and Alessandria provinces respectively. Its western limit is the village of Serralunga d'Alba, although very few Moscato vines are planted there; Serralunga's vineyards are dominated by the Nebbiolo used to make its red Barolo wines. It's eastern edge is marked by the Bormida river as it flows past Acqui Terme; here Moscato shares the vineyards with Dolcetto and Nebbiolo vines used to produce Dolcetto d'Acqui and Brachetto d'Acqui wines.
Although produced in the same area, and from the same grape variety, Moscato d'Asti is distinct from Asti Spumante, which is fully sparkling (spumante) and is typically made in a drier style.