Okay – this is going to be a lightning round tasting note in anticipation of a possible WSET Sparklings exam question on Asti. Homework!
Asti is a sparkling or often Frizzante / Spumante style of wine made in Italy’s NW Piedmont region and centred around Alba and Asti. There are two DOCGs, DOCG Asti and DOCG Moscato D’Asti. Traditionally these wines have a poor quality image and are almost known as ‘a poor man’s (or woman’s, depending on one’s point of view) version of Champagne.
There are two distinct types of Asti produced although they are often confused and lumped together. Both are made from 100% Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains or Moscato Bianco. The grape is sometimes referred to in the region as Moscato di Canelli.
The region has a continental climate and is sub-Alpine with calcareous soils, much beloved by the Muscat grape. Yields are maxed at 10 tonnes per hectare and 18 houses are in control of approximately 80% of the business. Many small growers end up selling to the large production houses – not unlike in Champagne. There are literally ‘oceans’ (as per Tom Stevenson) of Asti produced (about 75million bottles per year) compared with only about 3million bottles of Moscato D’Asti per year.
These wines tend to have a musky orange scent and flavour to them in addition to apricots, peaches, ripe melon, some light lemony citrus, rose petals and orange blossoms. They are best served with sweet desserts and fruit salad is a perfect accompaniment.
Produced in the Asti method, a variation on the Tank method, the partially fermented musts are held at 0c until they are needed (not too long or Moscato D’Astis in particular will end up smelling of geraniums because of the geraniol) and then fermented in a pressurized tank until they reach 6% abv and 5 atmospheres of pressure. They are then filtered and chilled to retain the residual sugar and bottled.
Asti is allowed to have a maximum atmospheric pressure of 3.5-4, be 7.5-9% abv, will have a mushroom shaped cork, be drier and made with less ripe grapes. It will have a lower quality rating. Moscato D’Asti, on the other hand is allowed to have a maximum of 1 atmosphere of pressure, be about 5% abv, will have a cork inserted into the bottle neck and be made of higher quality grapes and be of better overall quality.
Asti is extremely popular these days and enjoying a huge resurgence in market share and popularity especially amongst a young demographic of club going, rap loving drinkers. This has been led in large by singers including Drake and Nikki Minaj. Cheap, available, sweet and fruity, they are very drinkable and easy to market to these new and impressionable drinkers.
This wine is clear and bright, medium lemon with tiny, lazy bubbles noted.
On the nose it’s clean with intense aromas of grapes, musk, roses, honey, apricots, oranges and blossoms. It’s a youthful wine.
On the palate, the wine is sweet with medium acidity, has a delicately frizzante mousse, the alcohol is low and body is full. The flavours include lemon rind, apricot, peach, grape, rose and orange blossoms and honey. The finish is medium plus.
This wine is very good and a typical example of a Moscato D’Asti. It’s quite sweet but not cloying. While the acidity is not especially high, the flavours and aromas are full and complex.