Asti Wine | Piedmont’s Frothy Fizz

Harry Lambourne
15th March 2024

Asti Wine is the classic Piedmontese fizz. Delightfully sweet and fresh. A perfect ‘breakfast wine’.

We will take you through the ins and outs of this delicious drink that we highly recommend you seek out. It makes a great alternative to Prosecco and Franciacorta if you’re looking to branch out in the world of Italian fizz.

We will introduce you to the Piedmontese region of Italy and then take you through a brief history of the Asti drink, as well as common tasting notes and the method of production. Let’s learn about Asti.

Piedmont – The Home Of Asti

Piedmont Wine Region | Italian Wine Region
Piedmont Wine Region

Piedmont is most well-known for their world-class red wines. Chiefly among them are the wines of Barolo.

The landscape is distinctly rural and the broader wine region is comprised of 11 small towns and villages. While the production is small in Piedmont, the quality is beyond compare. The scenic vineyards sit on rolling auburn hills that are regularly engulfed in clouds of fog that drift serenely through the Italian countryside. The focus of Piedmont is generally on single varietal wines with specific vineyard sites specialising in a certain style of wine.

Barolo and Barbaresco are both known for wines from the Nebbiolo grape variety. The towns of Alba and Alma have both garnered acclaim for wines produced from Dolcetto and Barbera. Then, in terms of white wine you find some excellent quality white wine from the Arneis grape variety. However, the premier white wines come from the Cortese grape variety and can be found in the Gavi and Gavi di Gavi regions.

However, we are here to talk about something more sweet and bubbly. So, let’s look at Asti.

Asti Wine

Italy produces a wealth of sparkling wines. The most famous, (alongside Asti), are Franciacorta from Lombardy and Prosecco from Veneto. Asti serves as a real point of difference though. It is lower in alcohol and far sweeter.

Formally, it was known as Asti Spumante and is a deeply aromatic, semi-sweet sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes grown across Piedmont, (as we’ve discussed). The grapes chiefly come from areas surrounding the famous wine towns of Asti and Alba. However, production began in a tiny village called Canelli.

Canelli
Canelli – The Birthplace of Asti

You may also see these grapes referred to as Moscato Canelli or Moscato Bianco. All are equivalent to the grape which is known as Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains in France. Muscat is particularly popular in Alsace.

The Asti wine itself is a frothy creation and sometimes referred to as a perfect ‘breakfast wine’. Overwhelming aromas of peaches will arise from the glass that you find have to double-take to make sure you aren’t simply drinking a Bellini. In spite of the consistent quality which can be found in the best examples, this wine has gone through something of an image crisis.

It was susceptible to many mass-produced examples being pumped out during the time post world war two and they were promptly exported to anywhere but Italy, (MacNeil 343). Similar situations arose with Chianti in Tuscany, Pinot Grigio & Valpolicella in Veneto and Montepulciano in Abruzzo. These examples were cloyingly sweet and lacking any real nuance. Unsurprisingly, they weren’t sought out by the discerning wine lover.

Yet, Asti is starting to shake this reputation and we are grateful for that fact. The best examples still achieve a satisfying level of sweetness, but rather than sugary sweets, it is more like ultra ripe stone fruit and delicate jam. These also possess really powerful floral and perfumed aromas. Look out for touches of white flowers, orange blossom and rose.

Another point of difference for Asti is the alcohol level. Asti is most commonly between 7 and 9% ABV, (alcohol by volume). This is why it can sometimes be dubbed a ‘breakfast wine’, because a glass of it isn’t going to have you napping by 11am.

There’s a huge number of Muscat variants, with Muscat in the name and they actually represent some of the oldest vines in not just Piedmont, but the whole of the Mediterranean. While it has been around in Piedmont for a long, long time – the use of Muscat in sparkling wine production is far more recent.

A man named Carlo Gancia can be said to claim the title of ‘founder of Asti’. He introduced sparkling wine to the region around 1870, (MacNeil 343). You can still find Gancia named Asti wines to this day. So, if you want a taste of history, this is the way to go!

Asti is produced via the Charmat, (or Tank), method. This is different to the traditional method which you’ll see used in Champagne, Crèmant and the Catalan Cava. In the tank method, crushed grapes and grape must are added to a large vat and chilled to a near freezing temperature to prevent immediate fermentation.

The wine is then fermented in batches and the sealed tanks trap the carbon dioxide which creates the effervescence. When the wine reaches that 7-9% ABV, it is chilled, stabilised, refined, filtered and finally, bottled. It is then shipped out straight away. Asti is not intended for cellaring and should be drunk as fresh as possible, because of this you’ll rarely see a vintage on a bottle of Asti as you assume, (and hope), it is very young.

Asti Sparkling Wine
Asti Sparkling Wines

Asti is a delicious treat and we highly recommend you seek some out! It’s the perfect start to a Saturday, but proceed with caution.


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Work Cited

MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd ed., Workman Publishing, 2015.


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