Saturday, July 21, 2012

Moscato d’Asti—Summer’s Perfect Wine

Moscato d’Asti is produced mostly around the town of Asti in Southeast Piedmont, probably Italy’s most important wine producing region. It is made in a frizzante (lightly sparkling) style, is low in alcohol (4.5 - 6.5%) and has a zippy acidity that makes it an ideal summer refresher. Despite being modestly sweet, the low alcohol and good acidity clear the palate, so it's not syrupy or cloying. This makes the second glass as good as the first. It is made from the Muscato Bianco grape, which has been grown in Piedmont for hundreds of years.  Although made in the same area and from the same grape, it is distinct from Asti Spumante, a fully sparkling wine typically done in a drier style.

Moscato d’Asti is known for its freshness, elegant floral aromas, and delicate flavors of peaches and apricots. The wine is typically paired with non-chocolate desserts, particularly the classic Panatonne (a sweet bread containing candied orange, citron, and lemon zest), fruit tarts, or dry pastries made with hazelnuts or almonds. It’s also a great apéritif.

Many wineries produce this wine, including some of the most well known estates in Piedmont. It is not particularly expensive, usually in the $12.00  to $20.00 range.

Vietti Cascinetta is made from only the best grapes harvested from thirty-five year old vines. The nose suggests aromas of peaches, rose petals, and ginger. On the palate, its modest sweetness is perfectly balanced with acidity and minerality. Fresh apricots round out the creamy finish. Price tag? About $16.00.

A bit pricier at $15.00 per half bottle, but probably one of Piedmont’s best Muscatos, is Michele Chiarlo Nivole. Nivole means “clouds” in the Piedmontese dialect, and it appropriately suggests the wine’s airy, elegant quality. The fragrant, intensely fruity bouquet is offset by musky notes and leads to flavors of fresh peaches, apricots, and a hint of lemon.  Its refined sweetness is supported by an excellent balance of acid and bubbles. The finish is clear and crisp. You’ll wish it came in full bottles. The half is simply not enough of this beauty.

I drink dry wines ninety-five percent of the time. When I’m in the mood for something a little sweeter, Moscato d’Asti is the one I choose (except for the occassional Riesling or Port, of course.) Give it a try. You’ll love it.

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