I’m Peter Gatti, Director of Education for Twin Liquors, here to talk about some Italian sparklers for our Italian Wine Month. I’ve been in the business since 1979, have lived all over the world, have traveled and studied in many of the worlds’ wine areas, love good wine regardless of where it’s from, believe firmly that great bargains still abound, and especially love sharing a lifetime’s worth of knowledge!
So, what’s the difference among the three most popular these days: Moscato D’Asti, Asti, and Prosecco?
Well, Moscato D’Asti and Asti are both made to order, in the Piedmont, from the same Moscato Bianco grape which is pressed and kept chilled as juice till needed to be fermented, and fermented once in the closed tank or Charmat (or Martinotti) process, but from there, they diverge somewhat. Moscato is fermented to a maximum of 5.5 % alcohol and 2 atmospheres of pressure, so it’s just lightly sparkling or frizzante, and has about 65 grams per liter or 6.5% residual sugar, while Asti is fermented to a minimum of 7-9.5% alcohol and 3 atmospheres of pressure, so it’s quite a bit fizzier, as well as having less residual sugar at 30-50 grams per liter or 3-5 %. Oddly enough, Moscato D’Asti tends to taste less sweet! Both, however have similar aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, jasmine or tangerine blossom, apple, peach, apricot and pear fruit flavors and a wonderful fresh fruit grapiness that is utterly seductive and flat out delicious. Try them with fresh fruit, not too sweet desserts or even as dessert. Their mostly low alcohol levels allow them broad application much of the day, too.
Prosecco is also made (with one exception, the Col Fondo style—homework time!) by the Charmat method, but from Glera grapes, in Veneto and Friuli, fermented to 11-12 % alcohol, can come in still, frizzante (lightly sparkling) and fully Spumante (sparkling) styles, requiring a minimum of 3.5 atmospheres, but often somewhere between 5 and 6, making it as fizzy as champagne. Further, it can be made in Brut or up to 12 grams per liter / 1.2% residual sugar, Extra Dry or 12-17 grams / 1.2-1.7% residual sugar, or finally, Dry, at 17-32 grams / 1.7-3.2% residual sugar styles. Whew! The lesson here is to read your label carefully so that you’re not unpleasantly surprised by what you drink, right? It’s not as messy as you think, as you’ll most often see Extra Dry, the style that tastes rounded and a little fruity, but rarely ever tastes overtly sweet. Prosecco’s less aromatic and less fruit packed than Moscato and Asti, but is more broadly useful for that. It’s also the base wine for Bellinis and Mimosas everywhere, and in Italy, if you’re upright and breathing, they’ll hand you a glass at the drop of a hat as a rather pleasant form of greeting!