Moscato d’Asti is a wine appellation in northwestern Italy – specifically of the provinces of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo – designating sparkling wines.
The Moscato d’Asti is sweet and low in alcohol wine best enjoyed with fruit-based desserts. The wine has a flavour and aroma recalling ripe, orange-fleshed melons, nectarines and peach, orange blossom and has an uplifting perfume and, although sweet, it is light and refreshing.
Moscato d’Asti is made entirely from Moscato Bianco grapes grown on hillsides surrounding the town of Asti. After the grapes are hand-harvested in early September they are rushed to the winery where they are softly squeezed with manual presses. The resulting pulp and juice is then refrigerated in stainless steel tanks at low, near freezing temperatures in order to keep it from fermenting. This procedure helps insure the freshness and vitality of the wine. After a period, the wine is then fermented in closed steel tanks that capture the carbon dioxide and store it in the form of bubbles. The fermentation is terminated when the alcohol content reaches its desired level of sweetness – usually around 5 percent – by chilling the fermenting wine until the yeasts stop working.
A related wine is Asti Spumante, elevated to a DOCG status and renamed Asti in an effort to distinguish it from the host of sparkling wines produced in Italy from grapes of varying quality. With a maximum of one-point-seven atmospheres of pressure in the bottle, Moscato d’Asti is only slightly frothy, while Asti is fully sparkling at five atmospheres. The alcohol content for Moscato d’ Asti is considerably lower (five-point-five percent as opposed to Asti’s seven to nine-point-five percent).
Moscato d’Asti is at its best served chilled with light desserts. It goes well with fruit-based desserts, tarts or fresh fruit such as strawberries, but also with appetizers, including paté and grilled salmon, cold cuts – it is excellent with melon and prosciutto – soft cheeses such as gorgonzola or mozzarella di bufala.