Moscato d'Asti is a semi-sweet, lightly sparkling wine made in and around the province of Asti in the Piedmont region of Northwestern Italy. It is a wine of "unmistakable, haunting aromas of flowers, white peaches, apricot and sage" (Consorzio dell'Asti D.O.C.G.) This highly aromatic wine, made from the Moscato bianco grape, dates back to the Roman times and is one of over 200 varieties in the Muscat family of grapes. A fun fact about Muscat: it's the only variety which produces wine with the same aroma as the grape itself. You can actually smell the aroma out in the vineyards and then again in the glass!
Recently I attended an informative to-the-trade master class and delicious luncheon at Del Posto in NYC hosted by the Consortium for the promotion of Asti. There was a panel of wine producers who make this wine and one speaker noted that the unexpected reaction from people trying Moscato d'Asti for the first time is "WOW"! I had a similar reaction (as a Moscato d'Asti novice myself) tasting through these aromatic and refreshing wines.
Here are three reasons Moscato d'Asti should be on your holiday table.
#1) It tastes good!
Even though Moscato d'Asti is categorized as a sweet wine, it is not an overwhelming wine of cloying sweetness. After a glass or two (or three!) you will not feel like you are going into sugar-shock which is a good thing since holiday desserts alone can provide that! It is also produced in a way that leaves it frizzante, or lightly sparkling in Italian. The bubbles feel soft, not aggressive, on the palate allowing all of the delicate flavors to be recognized and enjoyed. While Moscato d'Asti is typically considered a dessert wine, it is versatile enough to be paired with many different courses. It can be enjoyed at the beginning of the evening with a variety of antipasti such as melon with prosciutto, mortadella, and deep-fried vegetables. It can even pair well during the main course with spicy food, like pasta with arrabbiata sauce and Asian or Indian dishes. And naturally, with the dessert course, the delicate sweetness goes well with traditional Christmas cakes like panettone and all kinds of cheeses, custards, fruit salads and baked goods.
#2) It's low in Alcohol.
Moscato d'Asti is a refreshing wine that stimulates the appetite when served at the beginning of a meal and acts as a digestif at the end without contributing to the holiday hangover! By law, its alcohol content cannot be higher than 5.5%. Compare that to Champagne, which ranges from 11.5 to 12.5% alcohol and then there are those big red wines checking in at 15% and that single malt scotch coming in at 45% alcohol! (which, by the way, should also be on your holiday table along with Moscato d'Asti, but that's for another blog post!). If you're planning to serve many courses and include other, higher-proof wines and spirits, it would be wise to offer your guests the choice of a libation lower in alcohol ... even the kids could have a little sip, like they do in Italy!
#3) It's a great value.
Wine doesn't have to be complicated or expensive to be enjoyable! A well-made, tasty Moscato d'Asti can be found for $12-24. That's a bargain compared to many other wines, sparkling or still. Below are some of my favorite choices for your holiday table. Cheers! Or as they say in Italy, Saluti!
- Ceretto Vignaioli di Santo Stefano Moscato D'Asti 2015 One of my favorite producers of red wines from this area, Ceretto also makes a wonderfully complex and balanced Moscato d'Asti.
- Marenco Scrapona Moscato D'Asti 2015 A very elegant wine with tiny bubbles and subtle aromatics of citrus, honey, peach, sage and orange on both the nose and palate.
- Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato D'Asti 2015 Intensely aromatic on the nose and floral on the palate with flavors of sage, apricot and white peaches.
- La Caudrina Moscato d'Asti 2015 Delicate, subtle aromas of flowers, orange blossom and peaches.
- Vietti Cascinetta Moscato d'Asti 2015 Another favorite producer of red Piedmont wines, this wine has intense aromas of peaches, rose petals and ginger and, on the palate, bright and fresh with a finish of fresh apricots
A fabulous finale: donuts with a cream filling, washed down with mouth-watering Moscato d'Asti!