Asti: the charming italian spumante
A land of hazelnuts, excellent livestock, mushrooms and truffles. A country side of vines hills, fog, and searing sunlight: this is the birthplace of Asti Docg, a sparkling wine to enjoy every day
Duccio Morozzo della Rocca
The Langhe, Monferrato and Roero is a generous countryside, where many of Piedmont’s best wineries are located. On their hills we find the dense rows of Moscato Bianco grapes that give rise to Asti Spumante, also known as Asti DOCG: a slight white foam disperses to form a lingering sea of bubbles.
What is SPUMANTE?
Letterally spumante means something that “makes a bubble”. To produce those sparkling bubbles the Asti Docg doesn’t need to be aged in the bottle like Champagne, because all the stages of its preparation are completed before it is bottled. The rapid processing and its special characteristics produce a wine that preserves the original aromatic qualities of Moscato Bianco grapes practically unaltered. The moderate alcohol content, ranging between 7 and 9.5%, makes it popular even among consumers who do not usually drink wine.
Moscato Bianco, the soul of Asti Docg
Today, as in the past, moscato bianco is the grape variety that characterizes the hilly landscapes of the Langhe and Monferrato The intense aroma, which is reminiscent of an ample variety of flowers and fruit – from wisteria to acacia, from elderberry to citrus fruit, from musk to roses and peaches – progressing into a distinct taste of honey. The wine appears brilliant, ranging from straw yellow to a soft golden hue. On the palate it delivers a markedly sweet taste, tempered by a pleasing freshness that is enhanced by the fine, persistent froth. A wine that is easy to drink, genuine, perfect for get-togethers and with an excellent price/quality ratio.
After a wine harvest carried out largely by hand, the grapes are pressed immediately, removing the stems, and placed in large stainless steel vats. At this point fermentation is interrupted by lowering the temperature to 0° C and the must is allowed to rest until the time is right for the critical processing step: the second fermentation. The process used to make Asti Spumante – different from the classical, or champenois method – is known as the Charmat method, named after the French oenologist who made it famous in the first years of the nineteen hundreds, although it had been previously perfected by Piedmontese oenologist, Federico Martinotti. It consists of blending sugary syrups and special yeasts with the pressed grapes, which re-start the fermentation process and, most importantly, permit its transformation into a sparkling wine.
During the course of this process, carbon dioxide is produced, generating the characteristic Spumante bubbles, and the wine reaches the alcohol level prescribed by the rulebook associated with the DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) – the seal borne by Asti Spumante. At this point, after the remaining yeast and residue have been removed by filtering, another refrigeration stage blocks the fermentation process before all the sugar is transformed into alcohol (hence the typical sweet flavor of Asti). The process is then concluded by bottling and capping, using the classic wirehood. The wine is now ready for distribution.
The Asti Consortium
Founded in December 1932 its original purpose was to define the area of cultivation of the Moscato bianco grapes used to produce Asti, the techniques of its preparation and the characteristics of the wine. In 1963, with the introduction of the Controlled Denomination of Origin (DOC) in Italy, the Consortium played a decisive role in attributing DOC status to Moscato d’Asti, Moscato d’Asti Spumante and Asti Spumante: the wine was subsequently admitted to the Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin, DOCG, established in 1994. Today, the Consortium certifies the production batches of the member companies and consigns the official seal, which attests compliance with the required norms.
Q&A with Paolo Ricagno, president of Consortium of Asti Docg
- What do you see as the future for the Consortium, an increase in exports or domestic consumption?
Currently 80% of the annual production are exported with Germany being the primer market for the aromatic white sparkling wine followed by the USA, Russia, UK, Oceania, Japan and Korea. The positioning in the Italian market has to be improved by changing the perception of Asti Docg with the Italian consumers. Traditionally Asti Docg is the wine for celebrations (great celebrations during the year or within the family) but it has to become the wine for life, having all the characteristics to achieve this goal. It is fresh, aromatic, with only 7%vol. and it is perfect when combined with desserts but also salted and spicy food.
- Regarding the exportation, do you feel more protected since the Doc, Docg, Igt are now in a common Dop/Igp register?
We will see what will happen in the near future. The intentions are good.
- Is Asti wine confined by tradition or opened to innovation?
Asti Docg has a long history but is still young and has a great unexpressed potential. Its versatility make it perfect as an aperitif, you can drink it pure or mixed in a cocktail; it is a perfect combination with desserts, with cheese, with spicy food, as an ingredient for recipes inspires chef and maitre patissier! And the low content of alcohol is trendy today.
The best way to enjoy Asti Docg
The perfect temperature for enjoying the freshness and aroma of Asti DOCG is 8°C, served in a high-stemmed glass and not in the classic champagne flûte. In fact, as sweetness is perceived largely with the tip of the tongue, the ideal glass is a rather ample tulip cup, like a goblet, so that the wine is distributed over the entire tongue immediately.
Pairing Asti Docg
A dessert wine par excellence that goes well with all oven-baked cakes. It is also a good companion for pastries, filled cakes, fruit tarts and sweets eaten with a spoon, fresh fruit salad and Italian Panettone. A splendid, readily appreciable table-talk wine that confers a joyous feeling of simplicity and freshness.
Duccio Morozzo della Rocca
02 November 2009 Teatro Naturale International n. 10 Year 1
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