Where can we find the world’s premium, sweet DOCG sparkling wines from Piemonte, Italy? In Asti and Moscato d’Asti, of course! Having recently delved into these beautiful regions, tucked in the hills of Piemonte, during a work trip, I’m now smitten with the intensely aromatic and flavorful profile of the varied styles of wines I sipped from four unique wineries.
Asti and Moscato d’Asti are produced using the Charmat method whereby the second fermentation is in the stainless-steel tank. As a result of gentle pressing of the Moscato Bianco grapes, and incomplete alcoholic fermentation (the stainless-steel tanks are sealed before fermentation is finished in order to trap the CO2 and achieve the optimal level of carbonation), wines are highly aromatic, fresh, balanced and full of flavor. Because fermentation is stopped early, an amount of sugar remains and alcohol levels are lower. The sweetness of the wines is from the grape – no sugar is added. To make things even more interesting, some wines in the region are produced using Metodo Classico, a process during which the second fermentation occurs in the bottle.
Piemonte is located in the foothills of the Alps that border France and Switzerland and are considered protective barriers. Still close to the sea, the region enjoys a mild climate, yet harvest dates vary depending on the location of the vineyards; in the north, harvest is generally 15 days earlier than in the south in order to preserve the aroma, acidity and flavors of the Moscato Bianco grape.
Soils in the region are limestone and sandy clay towards the west, and limestone, silt and loam in the east, all originating from ancient sea beds. Moscato Bianco vines are grown on hills between 300-500 meters above sea level. Many slopes are steep with 2700 out of 9700 hectares on gradients of over 30%.
There are three styles of sparkling wine produced from the Moscato Bianco variety: Asti Dolce DOCG, Asti Secco DOCG and Moscato d’Asti DOCG. Carefree, lively and extremely aromatic, these vintage wines are ready to be poured at any time thanks to their ability to pair with a wide variety of food. (For more information from the Consorzio dell’Asti DOCG, please click here.)
Sparkling Wine Styles of Asti
Asti Secco DOCG production requires special conditions for contact with selected yeasts used in the fermentation process. On the dry side, this newer style is especially fresh thanks in part to its high acidity and notes of citrus, florals and almonds. There is some residual sugar, however, that makes each sip perfect for complementing a range of foods from appetizers to fruit-based desserts.
Like Secco, Asti Dolce DOCG has a pervasive musky flavor with moderate alcohol, sweetness and bright acidity. On the nose, intense notes of spice, pungent yellow flowers, linden, acacia, elder flower, honey and nectarines can be explored and on the refreshing palate, stone fruit, sweet herbs and ripe fruit are prevalent. Enjoy with sweet, spicy or savory dishes and salted anchovies on bread and butter, a regional favorite.
Moscato d’Asti DOCG undergoes partial fermentation in pressure tanks. Fermentation stops when an alcohol content of 5% abv is reached and much of the grape’s natural sugars remain. Slightly sparkling (frizzante), aromas and gently sweet flavors of white and yellow flowers, stone fruit such as apricot and peach, orange and sage characterize this elegant wine that is perfect for sipping any time, anywhere!
Itinerary & Guide for Visiting the Asti Region
Years ago, I discovered that there’s no better way to learn about wine than visiting a wine region and tasting for yourself. When planning your trip to Asti, add the following wineries to your list for delicious examples of Asti and Moscato d’Asti wines.
Martini & Rossi
For an experience you’ll be talking about long after you return home, visit the headquarters of Martini & Rossi. Since 1864, generations of families have built the brand recognized throughout the world thanks to proud, hard-working people who have always had a passion for their land and wines. To learn about Martini & Rossi and taste wines, spirits and cocktails in a vibrant, hospitable atmosphere, visit Casa Martini, the production site of Martini and the family home of Luigi Rossi, the founder. Lose yourself in the fascinating Wine Museum, Botanical Room, Martini Cocktail Experience or Mondo Martini Gallery.
Founded as a vermouth bottling plant in the mid-19th century, businessman Alessandro Martini, winemaker Luigi Rossi and accountant Teofilo Sola emerged to dominate the company. The name changed to Martini, Sola & Cia. When the Sola family sold their shares in 1879, the company was renamed to Martini & Rossi. Currently, the brand continues to produce a variety of wines and spirits with the expertise of Beppe Musso, talented Master Blender, and Ivano Tonutti, Master Herbalist.
Winetraveler Tip: Try the Martini & Rossi Asti DOCG. It’s sweet and refreshing with powerful fruit aromas and flavors. On the nose, intense notes of honeysuckle, acacia, peaches, oranges and stone fruit are dominant. The palate, sweet and clean, boasts bright acidity and delightful elements of more stone fruit, pears, florals and herbs. Sip this delicious wine as an aperitif or with your favorite dessert.
Coppo is located in Canelli, a sub-zone of Asti. Its underground wine cellars built under the hill of Canelli for a total of 16,400 feet and a depth of 130 feet, have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. They’re a part of the network of Underground Cathedrals built in the late 18th century. Intended as small cellars to store and conserve wine, the network expanded during the 19th century to what can be experienced today.
The winery produces predominantly Metodo Classico sparkling wines, Moscato d’Asti, Barbera and Chardonnay. Their Moscato d’Asti can use the “Canelli” mark that indicates this newly created sub-zone. Coppo also produces DOCG Piedmontese wines including Gavi and Barolo. Because of its historical importance, Coppo is able to make Barolo outside of its official zone of production. Elegance, pride and history are evident in each sip of the wines I tasted.
Winetraveler Tip: The Coppo Moncalvina Moscato d’Asti 2019 “Canelli” exuded intense aromas of bright florals, peaches and pears. Complimenting the sweet notes, vibrant acidity framed refreshing flavors of stone fruit, flowers and minerality. Enjoy a chilled glass of wine with dessert, charcuterie, and cheeses.
In 1947, Secondo Martini and his brother Luigi founded the company at Cossano Belbo, traditional winemaking territory of the region. The first winery was built below Secondo and his wife Laura’s home, next to today’s stunning, expansive headquarters. Gianni Martini joined the company in 1971 and entrance into foreign markets ensued. The rest is history and now, this true family company led by Gianni and Eleonora Martini is comprised of 1200 grape growing families from lower Piemonte who work their lands for Fratelli Martini. This cooperative selects the best grapes from these families for international distribution. Fratelli Martini’s cellar, called the “Magnificat” is just that – a stunning homage to wine, the family’s heritage and plans for the future.
Winetraveler Tip: The Fratelli Martini Casa Sant’Orsola Moscato is a pure, clean expression of white flowers, stone fruit and minerality with a sweet, lingering finish. Although it’s exceptional with dessert, try a glass with fresh seafood, steak tartare or light pasta dish for a taste sensation.
My introduction to the wines of Matteo Soria was during a lunch almost a year ago. I was enthralled with his Moscato d’Asti and was excited to have an opportunity to meet Matteo Soria and visit the new tasting room at his family estate, handed down to Matteo’s great grandfather in the late 19th century. Located in the southeast of Piemonte, in the Langhe region, on top of a hill, I found the beautiful vineyards in Castiglione Tinella.
The Estate itself is located in Frazione San Martino known for the cultivation of the Moscato grape since the beginning of the 17th century. The hill offers light slopes and rich sandy soil that positively affects the brilliant aromas of their signature Moscato. Currently, Matteo is at the helm and the estate has become leaders in producing and bottling premium Moscato and Moscato d’Asti.
Winetraveler Tip: The Asti Extra Dry “Bric Prima Bella” Matteo Soria of Moscato Bianco, was exceptional. The fragrant aromas with lovely herbal and floral notes of acacia led to balanced flavors of light citrus with persistent mousse. Dry and refreshing, I’ve enjoyed this wine again and again with foods ranging from sushi to pasta (and beyond).