Moscato d’Asti are aromatic, lightly sparkling wines – frizzante in Italian – from the region of Asti in northwestern Italy made entirely from the Moscato Bianco grape that’s Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains in French. Courtesy of a stuck fermentation, these are vinified to a low alcohol amount of alcohol, 4.5% and 6.5%. Often tasting of honeysuckle, pear, lemon, and orange, Moscato d’Asti wines are somewhat sweet, with a high amount of residual sugar, 120 to 130 g/l. Tawny port, for example, is between 95 and 110 g/l of residual sugar. But even with more sugar, Moscato d’Asti does not taste as sweet as port. This is due to the considerable acidity that helps makes for wines that are rather balanced, if still sweet. And all of the wines I sampled during my recent time in Piedmont, were obviously very well-made and certainly more complex and interesting than the Moscatos I had had in my memory. I agreed with the notion we heard that “Moscato d’Asti is definitely not a simple wine.”
Part of the reason for that is the vast majority of the vineyards are on hillsides, usually in prime settings. And the Moscato d’Asti needs to be picked, usually manually, at the right time so that acidity, sugar and aromas are all in balance, which might require more attention for harvest than for other varietals. So, production more expensive, which might not be completely reflected in the prices. You can usually pick up a Moscato d’Asti for under $20, and even under $15 for top producers like Saracco and Michele Chiarlo.
With the balance, enjoyable flavors, a light body and low alcohol, the wines of Moscato d’Asti are easy to drink. In its home region, Moscato d’Asti is often the dessert, but it is also good with cheeses including gorgonzola dolce, though not aged ones. Elsewhere, Moscato d’Asti might work with dishes that pork with prunes, with soy sauce, some spicy dishes, and possibly a big range of Chinese dishes. Here in Houston, the lightness, low-alcohol, quality and value help make Moscato d’Asti a nice pairing for our too often subtropical weather, even without any food.
Vineyards near Asti earlier in the month