Moscato d’Asti is a lightly sweet sparkling wine made in and around the town of Asti, in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. Moscato Bianco (white Muscat), the grape from which it is produced, has been growing in the region for many centuries and is considered the variety from which all other moscatos evolved. Today, there are eight officially recognized Moscatos in the Italian National Register of grape varieties; however, there are over 200 Muscat varieties worldwide that are made into still, sparkling, sweet, and fortified wines.
Since 1993, the Moscato d’Asti wine appellation has fallen under Italy’s highest category of production, DOCG. Along with the region’s famous red Nebbiolo wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, Moscato d’Asti is one of the most characteristic products of Piedmont winemaking. Most of the region’s top producers round out their portfolio with these wonderfully aromatic wines.
Not to be confused with the region’s Asti Spumante, also made from Moscato Bianco (and now simply called Asti), Moscato D’Asti is slightly sweeter, more gently sparkling, lower in alcohol, and usually of higher quality.
Fun fact about the Muscat grape: it’s the only variety which produces wine with the same aroma as the grape itself. You can actually smell the aroma out in the vineyards and then again in the glass!
Moscato d’Asti Has Always Been Popular
The history of Moscato d’Asti goes much further back than most people realize, dating to the time of the Greeks when it was cultivated under the name Antilico. The ancient Romans renamed it Apianae after the bees (ape in Italian) which are attracted to the grape’s exquisite aromas of flowers, white peaches, apricot, and sage.
In the early 16th century, the Prince of Savoy, who was enamored with Moscato wine, decreed that one-fifth of all vineyards plantings in the area had to be with Moscato Bianco and anyone planting less would be fined. Savoy also stopped all other imports of vines to the area, a turning point in the history of Moscato and one that shows how important the grape was to the region.
Then there was Giovan Battista Croce, regarded as the “father” of Moscato d’Asti. A Milanese jeweler for royalty, he was also the owner of vineyards where he experimented with various vine-training systems. In his cellar, he perfected the techniques of making sweet, aromatic wines with low alcohol levels. People came from all over Piedmont to find out how he made his wine, so in 1606, he published a book called, “Of the Excellence and Diversity of Wines That Are Made on the Mountain of Turin and How to Make Them.” The book became a manual for the local Moscato d’Asti winemakers who wanted to make the best sparkling Moscatos.
Discover more about this delicately sweet, frizzante wine: Five Things You Didn’t Know about Moscato d’Asti
The 3 Reasons Moscato d’Asti Should Be on Your Table
Back in December of 2016 I wrote an article on why Moscato d’Asti should be at your holiday dinner. But recently, as I was sipping on a glass of this tasty bubbly while on vacation in Lake Tahoe, I started thinking that Moscato d’Asti is a great choice any time of the year.
1) It’s a Great Match With Food
Moscato d’Asti is typically considered a dessert wine, yet its versatility makes it perfect for the entire meal since it’s lightly sweet and never cloying. With delicate aromas and tastes that are reminiscent of peach, apricot, sage, lemon, and orange blossom, the wine is great on its own served chilled, or with a variety of antipasti like melon with prosciutto, mortadella, blue or cheddar cheese, and deep-fried vegetables. For the main course, the wine’s sweetness offsets the spiciness of typical summer dishes like grilled meats served with spicy relish or chili pepper-laced barbecue sauce.
And naturally, Moscato wines pair beautifully with desserts: fruit pies, creamy desserts, meringues, shuffles, berries, and even chocolate. Additionally, the wine’s soft bubbles are easy on the palate and won’t aggressively overwhelm any subtle flavors of a dish. In fact, the wine can even be used to make desserts: Check out my article on making a sweet custard called Zabaglione with Moscato d’Asti, What Makes Zabaglione So Delicious?
When I was visiting the Asti region (thank you Consorzio dell’Asti DOCG), a favorite pairing with Moscato d’Asti was crispy sage leaves atop grilled shrimp, which I now enjoy making at home.
While there, I also discovered a great cocktail (see photo), made by pouring the wine over ice that had been muddled with fresh sage leaves and lemon slices. Talk about a refreshing drink!
2) It’s Low in Alcohol
Moscato d’Asti is a refreshing wine that stimulates the appetite when served at the beginning of a meal and acts as a digestif at the end. By law, its alcohol content (ABV) cannot be higher than 5.5%. Compare that to most other sparkling wines which range in ABV from 11.5 to 12.5%, as well as red and white wines that can clock in at 14 to 15%.
It’s always a wise idea to offer your guests the choice of a beverage that’s lower in alcohol, especially on a hot summer day when we’re all in need of hydration.
3) It’s a Great Value
Wine doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to be enjoyable! A well-made, tasty Moscato d’Asti can be found for under $25, a bargain indeed.
One of my favorite Moscato d’Asti producers is Michele Chiarlo. Known as a fine producer of Barolo, the winery also produces a top-notch Moscato d’Asti named, for its delicate finesse, after the Piemontese word for clouds, nivole. Michele Chiarlo Nivole is intensely aromatic with flavors of sage, apricot, peaches and white flowers.
View this post on Instagram
The original post by Lisa Denning can be found on her blog, The Wine Chef