“The Moscato grapes that you taste in the vineyards are equally analogous to what you taste in the bottle. That is what makes these wines so special, you are tasting a time capsule ” – Jeff Porter
Moscato d’Asti is one of Italy’s most recognizable wines. It is a delicate, effervescent and aromatic wine made from Moscato Bianco, which has been grown for centuries in northern Piemonte in the province of Asti. Moscato d’Asti’s popularity is attributed to its freshness and lightness, which makes it enjoyable any time and during any season. Today the effervescent Moscato d’Asti is the most widely consumed sweet wine in the world.
In Italy, Moscato is the first wine everyone begins with, a perfect aperitif due to its fragrant aromas and low alcohol. Many will say that Moscato d’Asti is not only a part of Italian history but also a part of the Italian DNA. I had the opportunity to chat with Jeff Porter and five iconic producers of Moscato d’Asti. We explored the wines, the history, the winemaking traditions, the fragrant grape variety, the climate and its unique region which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History of Moscato d’Asti With Luigi Coppo
Moscato d’Asti has a very old and rich history. Moscato Bianco has been cultivated since ancient times. Luigi Coppo explains, “the Greeks called the variety Anathelicon Moschaton, while the ancient Romans renamed it Apiano because bees, or api, love its aroma”.
According to scholars, Moscato Bianco was planted in the Asti province around the town of Canelli during the 12th century. The popularity of Moscato increased in Medieval times, especially when the Duke of Savoy stopped the importation of other grape varieties and decreed only local production of Moscato Bianco. This marked a turning point for Moscato, as Piemonte starting producing some of the most prestigious wines of the region.
The history of Coppo Winery is inextricably wound with the wine history of Piemonte. They are one of the oldest family-run wineries in all of Italy. Coppo vineyards are located in Canelli in the Asti province. Canelli is a small town that is deeply rooted in Moscato’s history and is known as the capital of Italian sparkling wine. Luigi Coppo represents the fourth generation at Coppo Winery.
Wine Notes – The vineyards are located in Canelli on a 300-meter elevation with southern exposure. This aromatic wine has notes of mint, sage, and pear. On the palate, there is wonderful freshness with a nice herbal note which is characteristic of this part of Canelli. Moscato d’Asti is known to be a dessert wine, but due to its high acidity, the wine pairs well with charcuterie, spicy shrimp, foie gras and blue cheese.
Moscato d’Asti Winemaking with Marco Dogliotti
There are 500 years of viticultural history that is dedicated to Moscato Bianco, with 300 years of tradition to the original winemaking process. Moscato Bianco is cultivated on steep hillsides vineyards that require manual hand harvesting.
Marco Dogliotti is one of three sons of Romano Dogliotti, the owner and producer of La Caudrina. Marco passionately explains the vinification process of Moscato d’Asti, a tradition that has been highly respected for 300 years. Marco prefaces the conversation by saying, “Winemaking starts the moment the winemaker decides to pick the grapes.” The decision is determined by a fine balance of acidity and sugar in the grapes. A great deal of experience and expertise is required in understanding when the grapes should be harvested.
Grapes are handpicked and quickly destemmed, followed by a gentle press. Once the must is created it is clarified and the must remains frozen until the winemaker decides to start fermentation. The must is fermented in a pressurized tank that releases carbon dioxide, resulting in fine bubbles that are trapped in the wine. The must is inoculated with yeast and then fermentation is stopped when it reaches 5% alcohol. When the producer is ready to release the wine, samples are sent to a panel of experts to review. Only then is the wine released with the DOCG label.
Romano Dogliotti remains tied to the traditions of the Asti region but is open to new technologies to equip his new winery. The winery is located in the commune of Castiglione Tinella. The Dogliotti’s were the early farmers of the region and later went on to produce their own wines. Today they are known for their single vineyard, site-specific wines.
Wine Notes – La Caudrina has aromatic floral, strawberry, and peach notes that are typical to this area. The texture is round with fullness on the palate. The wine has an appealing acidic profile, which gives it freshness and energy. This Moscato d’Asti is the perfect dessert wine and ideal with dry baked goods, such as the traditional “Panettone” or the Easter “Colomba”.
Fragrant Scents of Moscato d’Asti with Stefano Chiarlo
Moscato d’Asti is known for its richness and fragrant aromas. Stefano Chiarlo says “the rich monoterpenes of Moscato Bianco give uniqueness to Moscato di Asti”. The region’s composition of soils, steep hillside terroir, unique microclimate, and natural fermentation give Moscato d’Asti its feminine and delicate fragrance. Sage, apricot, white peach are the most predominant characteristics of Moscato d’Asti. A well made Moscato d’Asti is aromatic, balanced, fresh, and very precise.
Wine Notes – This Nivole comes from Canelli and is one of the most classic and iconic wines of the region. Stefano says he is looking for a good mix of floral and fruit expressions. The wine has a richness of peach, apricots, and sage. It can age and will grow into a more gastronomic wine with time. Perfect for brunch, as an aperitif or with dessert. An excellent companion to fresh pastries and fruit such as strawberries and peaches.
Climate Change with Gianpiero Scavino
The Moscato area is quite big with 51 towns. Gianpiero Scavino explains that each town has a distinct and unique microclimate. Like most parts of the world, climate change has affected the area. Summers have been noticeably warmer and winter months have been shorter. These climatic changes have made it very difficult to anticipate harvest. Over the last 10 years, the harvest has shifted from the beginning of September to the end of August. For these reasons, experience and knowledge of the terroir and its climate are of utmost importance.
The winery is owned by two families. Gianpiero Scavino and his brother along with the Ceretto family produce this incredible Moscato d’Asti. The winery is located in Santo Stefano Belbo. I Vignaioli wanted to reinvent the image of the bottle. They had Bersanetti, one of the greatest Italian designers, create a tall and thin bottle with a unique label that resembles a crescent-moon Pavesian memory. In 2010 they started to implement an organic approach, obtaining certification with the 2015 vintage.
Wine Notes – The grapes in their vineyards are riper than other places since they do not use pesticides. There is a sweet aromatic bouquet of melons, orange blossoms, jasmine and honeysuckle. There are intense flavors on the palate with lots of richness that is very fresh. In addition to sweets, cakes and ice cream, the wine goes well with cheese or fruits such as figs, melon and Piemonte’s famed roasted hazelnuts.
UNESCO Heritage with Andrea Costa
The beauty of the hills and the beauty of the steep vineyards are important to the UNESCO designation. Andrea Costa emphasizes that is not just the desire to preserve the beauty of the landscape but the UNESCO designation is also about the need to connect the land to the people.
The UNESCO designation is about the people and the personalities that have impacted the rich history of the area. Moscato d’Asti is the most planted grape variety and plays an important role in the UNESCO story. Andrea emphasizes people like the Duke of Savoy and Croce that have helped shape the region.
In 1606 Croce wrote down the process of making Moscato d’Asti. He made his wine by stopping fermentation by filtration and racking This story of how Croce stopped the fermentation process and filtered the wine is a tradition that makes Moscato d’Asti what it is today. Along with these historical figures, these five iconic producers with whom we had the honor of tasting and learning about Moscato d’Asti, have also played a pivotal role in the UNESCO recognition.
Marenco was founded in 1925 by Michele Marenco with a dream of making wine using the grapes of his vineyard. His vineyards are located in the heart of the Bagnario di Strevi Valley, a land with a very rich wine-growing history. Their priority is excellence. All choices are guided by the desire to discover the best flavors of their Piemontese territory. All the wines are produced exclusively with native varieties grown organically in their vineyards.
Wine Notes – The winery is located in Strevi, one of the most traditional towns in the area. Moscato from Strevi is very unique, and Scrapona has all the classic aromas of Moscato d’Asti but also has intriguing tropical notes. It is very full on the mouth and can age very well too. Scrapona accompanies well with all desserts, especially hazelnut sweets, amaretti and zabaglione.