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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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Asti Unleashes Two New DOCGs from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

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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Copyright © 2016. Originally at The Deceptive Complexity of Moscato d’Asti from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!