Asti Unleashes Two New DOCGs

Speaking of Moscato d’Asti (see last week’s article for a deep dive into that topic, including a look at how stupid I can be), I thought it worth mentioning a topic that came up during that same media trip to the rolling hills of Piedmonte’s Moscato bianco growing region: Asti is unleashing two brand new DOCG wines onto the market.

Asti Unleashes Two New DOCGs
Make it rain! Yes, I ate this. With Moscato. Yes, it rocked. Yes, I’d do it again.

Being DOCGs, these are to be just as regulated as the strictly mandated Moscato d’Asti DOCG, which is good news for Moscato lovers looking for something different (and, presumably, for the Italians looking for work enforcing the regulations!). Like Moscato d’Asti, the new DOCGs are made from 100 percent Moscato Bianco grapes grown in the region, but don’t require Moscato dAsti’s vintage declaration. Confusingly (for me, anyway), neither mentions the grape in its DOCG name. Anyway, here’s the run-down of the new categories, both of which offer a broader stylistic range of Asti Moscato…

Asti Unleashes Two New DOCGs
More rolling Asti hills. Because… well, duh.

ASTI Dolce DOCG – This is the new sweet(ish) wine category for Asti’s Moscato. The Like Moscato d’Asti, the sugar is all natural/residual, mitigated to some extent by the bubbles and the ample acid volume. In my experience tasting the versions now available, you generally get a slightly sweeter, easy-to-imbibe presentation of Moscato Bianco in this new DOCG, with tons of floral, grape, and stone fruit aromatics, and a straightforward, harmonious finish. Think aperitif, or pairing with fruity desserts, and be prepared to pour a not-insubstantial amount of this stuff to party guests.

  • 11.5% minimum potential alcohol
  • 6-7% actual alcohol
  • 4.5 g/l minimum total acidity
  • 3.0 bar minimum pressure
  • 90-100 g/l sugar
Asti Unleashes Two New DOCGs

ASTI Secco DOCG – There are far fewer examples of this new category of Moscato Bianco being made than its Dolce counterpart (particularly in the Extra-dry and Demi-sec versions), but I did manage to get my lips on a few of them during my Asti travels. In general, this is Asti’s answer to Prosecco, offering a drier non-vintage style (courtesy of higher bubble pressure and lower residual sugars). It’s a food-friendly Moscato style, with the floral bite amped up (think hoppy beer), the finish drier (sugars are almost ten times lower than in Moscato dAsti), and the body more substantial (almost double the alcohol of its lower-abv Asti counterpart DOCGs).

  • 11.5% minimum potential alcohol
  • 11% actual alcohol
  • 4.5 g/l minimum total acidity
  • 3.0-3.5 bar minimum pressure
  • 17 g/l sugar (average)

I see a good market for ASTI Dolce, but personally I am most excited about the Secco category, as it will explore a side of Moscato Bianco that we rarely ever see (even in Italy).

Cheers!

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The Deceptive Complexity of Moscato d’Asti

About ten minutes or so into Walter Speller‘s presentation on Moscato d’Asti, I realized that I was some kind of idiot.

Speller’s masterclass was part of a presentation given to media guests gathered at the bucolic Castello Gancia, smack dab in the heart of Asti and a focal point of the area’s recent UNESCO designation. It’s the kind of place that you imagine in your dreams of what Piemonte would be like (17th century architecture sitting atop gorgeous rolling hills… that sort of thing).

The Deceptive Complexity of Moscato d’Asti

Anyway, it only took me about ten minutes into that masterclass for the cold water of facts to jolt me out of any residual dreamlike morning Piemonte trance into the realization that just about everything that I thought I’d known about Asti’s boisterous vinous calling card was, basically, absolute wrong. I’m betting that most of you reading this have gotten it wrong, too; the simple truth is that the simple pleasures of Moscato d’Asti – hands-down one of the dead easiest wines to enjoy – belie complexities that are pretty friggin’ serious.

I’m not talking about Moscato’s complexity in the nose, either; though a good argument could be made that, in terms of volume of aromatic compounds, Moscato Bianco is one of the most aromatically complex grape varieties in the world. But I am talking about… well, just about everything else that goes into making a finished, drinkable Moscato d’Asti product…

The Deceptive Complexity of Moscato d’Asti

Moscato Bianco has been in the Piedmonte mix of making high quality wines since at least the early 1500s, though its longevity in that category (as Speller put it, “a mediocre wine could never stand the test of time”) is a bit peculiar given what a pain in the ass it can be to grow properly. To get the right mix of acidity, sugar, and aromatics, you need to pick Moscato Bianco at the right time – usually between August and September, when it’s most prone to be rainy. As (bad) luck would have it, the grape is susceptible to powdery mildew, so that timing is perfect if your goal is to increase the need for vineyard labor.

The Deceptive Complexity of Moscato d’Asti

To mitigate this – and to grow the stuff on the right soils (ancient seadbed and sandstone, for instance) to fine-tune the aromatics (yet another hidden complexity) – Moscato in Asti is mostly planted on hillsides at higher (200-300 meters) elevation. This has the effect of vastly increasing the need for manual viticulture (unless you are fond of flipping tractors), since over 9700 hectares of Moscato in the region are planted on gradients above thirty percent. My back hurts just hearing things like that. Oh, and much of the vines are older plantings, so they naturally produce lower yields. They also consists of lots of smaller (about four hectares on average) plots, with some vineyards now in danger of being abandoned altogether (can’t say that I blame them, given the combination of all of the above).

The Deceptive Complexity of Moscato d’Asti
Media crowds gathered in Asti to get schooled on Moscato

If it’s beginning to feel like it’s a miracle that these deceptively simple wines ever get made, we haven’t even talked about the vinification method, which essentially combines arrested fermentation (to retain natural sweetness) with Charmat-method bubbles (a process that Charmat himself refined, but was invented by the un-credited Italian Federico Martinotti). These are laborious processes to get right even now, so one can imagine how difficult they used to be before techniques like, say, refrigeration. Moscato d’Asti, after all of that, also happens to be one of the more regulated wines on the planet, mandatory vintage declarations, and every bottle being (theoretically, anyway) traceable at every step from the vineyard to consumer sale.

So… I felt… dumb. Hopefully, after reading this, you feel the exact opposite, and are ready to show off your newfound wine smarties the next time you’re kicking back on your yacht pouring copious amounts of Moscato d’Asti for bikini- (or speedo-) clad models. Unless you already knew all of this stuff about what might be Italy’s most deceptive “simple” wine, in which case, stop lying already.

Cheers!

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Keep Those Fedoras Handy (Adventuring Beyond Barbera In Monferrato)

We’ve finally (!) come to the end of my first go-round with the Monferrato Barbera folks over at MyNameIsBarbera.com. Hard to believe that initial Barbera gig has finished (though I may be working with the Piedmontese in other capacities in the new year – stay tuned).

In my final piece in the Barbera Moves series, I urge you to kind of ignore Barbera; temporarily, at least. To put that ostensibly odd stance in proper context, here’s a brief quote (and yeah, I am quoting myself):

Barbera is the “gateway drug” to the rest of Piedmont. Barbera is a bridge that starts an adventure into the history, land, people, and tastes that make up such compelling and unique wines as Ruchè, Grignolino, Albarossa.

from MyNameIsBarbera.com

Anyway… for the full farewell take, grab your whip, fedora, and sense of adventure, then head over to the MNiB site and start reading.

Cheers!

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Home Sweet Home (The Irony Of Barbera At MyNameIsBarbera.com)

My latest article looking back on my Monferrato gig is now live over at MyNameIsBarbera.com, and it’s my next-to-last for that gig. The fact that the phrase “Home, Sweet Home” appears in the post, and yet the article entirely lacks and references to Mötley Crüe is, admittedly, a severe and egregious oversight, but otherwise I think that the writing is solid (both mine and that of Nikki Sixx, I mean).

In this penultimate piece, I talk about a strange irony of the well-traveled Barbera grape variety; to wit (and if you’ll at least temporarily forgive the douchebaggery of quoting myself):

“In having this true sense of place, there’s an endearing irony in Barbera d’Asti. Few red wine grapes have seen as much globe-trotting expansion as It, and yet its best and most versatile incarnations and intimately tied to just a single, special place.”

Click on the link below to check it out (preferably while drinking some Barbera d’Asti).

LOOKING BACK ON BARBERA

Cheers!

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Monferrato Love Letter

My gig with the Barbera and Monferrato folks over at MyNameIsBarbera.com has come to an end, and so you’ll be seeing a couple of wrap-up posts of mine over there as the 2018 Summer hits high season and then fades into Autumn (by far the best time of the year, especially in my neck of the planetary woods).

The first of these is available now for your reading pleasure, and it takes the form of a kinda-sappy-but-then-again-maybe-not-so-sappy love letter to the Monferrato region as a whole.

Monferrato Love Letter

Of course, I’m going to miss visiting the place, until I get my skinny ass back there, I mean. In order to fully understand why I’m going to miss this Piedmontese jewel so much, all of that is explained with admittedly a modicum of annoying affectation in my latest My Name Is Barbera article…

I LOVE MONFERRATO

Cheers!

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The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

Another day at the “office”

Back in February, I spent a handful of days in the charmingly-imposing Italian town of Montefalco, as the U.S. media guest attending the anteprima showing of Sagrantino’s somewhat-troubled 2014 vintage.

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)Generally, the way that these things work is that we press-types get to sit around in beautiful locales tasting (and pontificating upon) the latest – and usually not-so-latest – vintages of a region, when we’re not attending dinners or visiting nearby producers, I mean. Just another day at the office…

After highlighting a handful of producers from that visit, I thought that I would wrap up the Sagrantino-related coverage here by sharing some of what I found to be among the more interesting wines that I encountered on that anteprima trip. Some of these wines will, in true 1WD form, be nigh-impossible to find, though most won’t; but think of this less as the brain-dump of tasting notes that it is, and more of an enthusiastic recommendation of some of Montefalco’s best producers.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I have what feels like ten billion wines to tell you about; and so, let’s get it started in here while the base keep runnin’ runnin’, and runnin’ runnin’…

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

2015 Tenuta Alzatura Rosso di Montefalco (Umbria, $NA)

We can’t – well, we can, but we shouldn’t – forget one of Montefalco Sagrantino’s little vinous brothers, Rosso di Montefalco, which in Cecchi Alzatura’s case hails from three different vineyards supplying the Sangiovese, Merlot, and Sagrantino making up the blend; a key advantage since, as Agronomo Alessandro Mariani told me, “In Montefalco, everything is in small pieces.” This offering is textbook for the region: chewy, sexy, plummy, and spicy.

2007 Tenuta Alzatura “Uno di Dieci” Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $31)

When it comes to the burly Sagrantino grape, having perspective in essential, so it helps to taste something from an older, excellent vintage to get said perspective, as I was fortunate enough to do with Alzatura’s `07 incarnation of their “Uno di…” series. This is still young, but has kept its round, ripe, and generous fleshiness. Earthy, dark, leathery, juicy, and fruity, this one has character, power, and poise.

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

Scacciadiavoli’s imposing cellar

2015 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva (Umbria, $46)

So… yeah, you’ve heard of these guys, who famously threw out their first vintage back in the 1970s, and now at 136 hectares of vines and 800,000+ bottles of wine a year are among the larger producers in the region. They’re fans of extended oak aging which, seemingly paradoxically, smooth out the rougher and ample Sagrantino tannins by adding more tannin (and thus elongating the tannin molecule chains and makes for a potentially silkier mouthfeel overall.  This Rosso Riserva sees twenty months in oak, and it’s hot, burly, and big, while also being spicy, supple, and plummy. Get a good steak, because you’ll need it with this.

2014 Arnaldo-Caprai “25 Anniversario” Sagrantino di Montefalco Riserva (Umbria, $75)

This Sagrantino is the result of vineyard and barrel selections, resulting in a concentrated, meaty, and excellent red that’s crazy spicy, crazy powerful, and crazy smooth. The tannins might be supple, but they are also significant and abundant; the wine will definitely age, and it definitely requires it.

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

NV Scacciadiavoli Rosé Vino Spumante Brut Metodo Classico (Umbria, $NA)

And now for something completely different… here’s a side of Sagrantino that one rarely sees: namely, a “feminine” take. In this case, the burly grape is picked on the early side and given the Champagne treatment, including sur lie aging. The result is a combination of ripe red apple, brioche, and citrus tones, and is eminently gulpable.

2014 Di Filippo ‘Etnico’, Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, $NA)

This is a minor triumph of the challenging `14 vintage; laden with tobacco spice, ripe and tart plum fruit, and serious structure/grip, this is about as elegant as a young Sagrantino can get.

2014 Di Filippo Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, $50)

Tighter than a tourniquet, which has the advantage of temporarily showcasing freshness and minerality along with the more common Sagrantino elements of sipcy tobacco. This might not be ready for drinking until Elon Musk’s Roadster collides back into Earth…

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

Scacciadiavoli’s other imposing cellar

2014 Moretti Omero Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $36)

This gets very dark, very quickly, and moves from silky to mineral and gritty almost as quickly. Layers of herbal spiciness and dark fruits hint at something special ahead (if you can wait for it).

2014 Rocca di Fabbri Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $30)

Ohhhhhh! This one is getting very, very fresh with us! While it’s not the most complex Sagrantino you will encounter, the core structural elements and typicity are ridiculously strong with this excellent Sagrantino example. Taken with the acidic lift, it’s a winning combo.

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

2014 Fattoria Colleallodole Milziade Antano Sagrantino di Montefalco “Colleallodole” (Umbria, $45)

There’s so much going on here, it’s almost a little overwhelming at first blush; tobacco, herbs, flowers, mint, leather, plums… and lest you think that all of that reveal this early on might hint at a shorter aging curve, there are a shit-ton of tannins included for good measure to prove you wrong.

2014 Lungarotti Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $45)

Graphite, spices, and lots (and lots) of dark-fruited generousity, especially considering the vintage. It’s also powerful (and even a tad hot), but will make the steakhouse crowd very, very happy.

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

2014 Cantina Fratelli Pardi “Sacrantino” Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, $NA)

This single vineyard Sagrantino bears a name that hearkens back to the wine’s past, but is quite modern in presentation. Minty, brambly, and showing off black cherry, plum, and sweet tobacco action, this starts smooth, gets a nice lift in the middle, and ends powerfully and long. And I mean powerfully – at over 16% abv, this one will could get you onto your knees in pseudo-religious-prayer formation, and in short order.

2014 Valdanguis “Fortunato” Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $NA)

Fortune favors the bold, and in this case, also the grippy, leathery, and spicy. Tobacco, dark cherry, game meat, and even a hint of salinity make this one one of the more compelling Sagrantino releases of the vintage, in my not-so-humble opinion.

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

Tenuta Bellafonte

2014 Tenuta Castelbuono “Carapace” Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $38)

Part of the Lunelli group of brands, this wien is named after their famous tortuga shell-shaped edifice, which I can tell you from firsthand experience is a sort of odd wonder of design and construction. While the building might seem a bit on the whimsical side (and look like the giant Gamera decided to retire and become a winery), this Sagrantino isn’t fooling around at all. Elegant cigar spices, dried herbs, black and red cherry fruit, mineral, and even hints of roses are all packed into a fascinating aromatic profile.

2014 Cantine Adanti Arquata Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $45)

Tied up tight with sprigs of mint and other dried herbs, this red reveals little on the nose but starts to hint at great chewy fruitiness on the palate. That is, before said palate also tightens up into serious grip.

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

2014 Tenuta Bellafonte “Collenottolo” Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, $50)

You gotta admire the tenacity of this producer, who make 30,000 bottles a year from only estate fruit, and with only two wines in the portfolio. Going back in time with their vintages of Collenotolo was a treat, and it showcased how much their investment has paid off over the years (when asked how much that investment amounted to, owner Peter Heilbron replied “Too much! But pleasure has no price!”). The `14 Collenotolo is floral, herbal, earthy, minty, and full of cherries and spices on the palate. Sweet plums eventually take over, and the whole experience of drinking it is so nice that one feels compelled to keep going…

2013 Cantina Bartoloni “Essentia” Bianco Umbria Passito (Umbria, $NA)

It seems fitting to wrap all of this Montefalco-ing up with something uniquely Montefalco. While there’s plenty of dessert-style passito made from Sagrantino to be found in the area, the “Essentia” showcases Trebbiano instead, with no oak treatment. Apricot, sultana, and floral perfume on the enticing nose move to a soft palate entry, then to a sense of freshness, finishing with citrus peel and honey. All of which you’d need, too, if you had to wash down all of those burly, young Sagrantino reds…

The Almost-Full Monty (Montefalco Sagrantino Anteprima 2014)

Cheers!

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My Name Is *Still* Nizza (Drinking Monferrato’s Older Top Reds With MyNameIsBarbera.com)

Hey, remember when I waxed all dime-store-poetic about the longevity and power of Barbera reds from the relatively-new, tippy-top-of-the-Asti-area-quality-pyramid region of Nizza?

Well, I do.

Anyway, if you’re curious how the highest-end Piedmonte Barbera wines fare when they have upwards of a decade of aging under their labels, check out the latest video in my Barbera in the Glass series for MyNameIsBarbera.com.

This episode features the second portion of my tasting with Tenuta Olim Bauda head honcho Gianni Bertolino, in which we delve in-depth into a couple of older vintages of their Nizza wines, and I kind of have my mind blown and gesticulate wildly with my hands while I make funny faces trying to express how good those wines really are. It’s a quick watch, and definitely worth a viewing if you’re one of the true lovers of Monferrato wine (and if you’re not… what the actual f–k is wrong with you?!??).

Cheers!

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My Name Is… Nizza… (Drinking Monferrato’s Top Reds With MyNameIsBarbera.com)

You might have read about the venerable Tenuta Olim Bauda (and its head honcho, Gianni Bertolino) here before, as I’ve previously covered my gig promoting Italy’s incredible Monferrato region over at at MyNameIsBarbera.com. Back in December, the MNiB team had produced video of me getting the low-down from Bertolino on Nizza, the relatively new tippy-top of the Barbera DOCG quality pyramid.

Well, we’ve got some more vid from that session, this time covering the first part of my Nizza tasting with Bertolino, during which I get introduced to more recent vintages of the (quite excellent) stuff. You can jealously watch me gulping down some tasty Nizza reds int he embedded video below. Next up in the series will probably be the second half of that tasting, in which I get to drink older Nizza vintages to see if they live up to their age-ability hype.

Tough job, right?

Barbera in the Glass: Nizza Tasting #1

Cheers!

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Red Dawn, In The Glass (Tasting Albarossa In Monferrato)

For the most recent installment of the Monferrato in the Glass series over at MyNameIsBarbera.com, we provide another deeper dive into the vinous wares of the region, once again with Bava‘s Paolo Bava.

Paolo introduces me to Piedmonte’s version of Red Dawn: Albarossa. Albarossa has a unique history, even by historical-embarrassment-of-riches Italian standards. It’s actually relatively new, and something that really only could have been conceived within the hilly borders of Piedmonte (you can read up a bit more on Albarossa’s storied past here).

After viewing the vid below, you’ll have a much better idea of why drinking this wine will make you want to pronounce Albarossa with a slow, voluptuous, sing-songy Italian accent.

AAAAHL-baaahhh-ROOOOWWWW-ssssaaaahhhhhhh…..

Cheers!

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Hungry Canines, Thirsty Dudes (Tasting Nizza Barbera For MyNameIsBarbera.com)

Is there anything more adorable than a Weimaraner happily chomping on Barbera grapes in a Monferrato vineyard? Besides maybe a Weimaraner puppy eating grapes in that vineyard?

That’s the question that we pose (sort of) in the latest Monferrato Moves installment over at MyNameIsBarbera.com. In that video (also embedded below), I have the pleasure of sitting down with Tenuta Olim Bauda‘s Gianni Bertolino, who, aside from owning dogs and making incredibly serious, long-lived, and tasty Barbera, also happens to be President of the Associazione dei Produttori del Nizza. So, he knows a couple (of hundred) things about the tippy-top of the Barbera DOCG quality pyramid.

In this vid, Bertolino and I taste through a couple of more recent Nizza DOCG releases, and I don’t spit, which should tell you something about how good his wines are. Enjoy!

Cheers!

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