Wine Wednesdays With William: Moscato d’Asti, The Wine World’s Sweet Relief

Anybody out there have a sweet tooth? (That was a rhetorical question.) While I could easily serve you any number of candies, pastries or desserts, I’d rather pop the cork of a bottle of delicious, sweet wine to satiate your hankering for the saccharine. And as luck would have it, we’ll be opening a well-made Moscato d’Asti in Putnam Market’s Wine Room this weekend. What is Moscato d’Asti? The rules of the wine’s production zone dictate that it’s 100 percent Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains, a very superior grape variety, not to be confused with the coarse but more prolific Muscat of Alexandria. The Moscato d’Asti Denominazione di Origine Controllata (or DOC, for short) was one of the first in all Italy, delimited in 1932, and is located on the foothills of Piedmont around the town of Asti. The vineyards are on steep south-facing slopes, and the work accomplished in the vineyards is back-breaking: Everything is done by hand, and each generation toys with finding an easier way to make a living. Were they to do so, it would bring to an end a winemaking tradition that stretches back to 1606.

A lot of Moscato on sale here comes from California’s Central Valley or Australia’s vast South-East zone. The majority of Moscatos are made from Muscat of Alexandria, grown on irrigated, flat lands, mechanically harvested and manipulated with citric acid and cream of tartar in the winery. They cost less than Moscato d’Asti—sometimes a lot less.

The vineyards around Asti are cooled by the Alps behind them, slowing the ripening of the grapes to a crawl, and when the harvest comes in, small, tight bunches of grapes filled with super-fresh floral and citrus aromas go into the pickers’ baskets and into the wine, which is feather-light with the gentlest sparkle. Unquestionably good wine and unquestionably sweet.

So stop on by the Wine Room this weekend and have a little dessert…wine, that is. The one we’ll be opening is a Moscato d’Asti Gianni Doglia 2018. Gianni Doglia is one of the leading growers in the region of Monferrato, especially celebrated for his Tre Bicchieri awarded Moscato d’Asti, which is often called the finest wine of its kind in the region. The organically farmed vineyards are among the highest in Asti. The wine costs $16, including sales tax, which works out at about $3 a glass.

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