How is Moscato d’Asti produced? (An updated version)

The production process of Moscato d’Asti has a million different variations and every winemaker approaches the process differently, depending on the house’s style.

A few months ago, I published a post here on the Moscato d’Asti Stories blog about Moscato d’Asti production. I recently asked the editors of the blog to take it down: After spending three days in the land of Moscato d’Asti and talking to countless Moscato d’Asti producers about their approach to production, I realized that what I had written was completely outdated.

I willfully admit that I was wrong and misinformed. And I misrepresented, however unwittingly, the reality on the ground, as they say at the United Nations. But in all fairness to me, I based my post on what I was able to find out online about Moscato d’Asti production. And again, in all fairness, I have to point out that what I wrote wasn’t incorrect but rather outdated.

The overwhelming majority of Moscato d’Asti producers I spoke during our recent media trip to the appellation told me that they make their wine in autoclaves — pressurized and temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks.

They begin with grape must. And that’s a really important point that we will discuss later on. But for now, let’s focus on how they don’t begin with a “base wine,” in other words, a wine that has already been vinified for the purpose of making a sparkling (as you would do with the majority of sparkling wines made in the world today). They use the actual grape must (and again, we will come back to this point in a future post).

With the must in the tank, they provoke the first fermentation, which they carry out for an extended period of time. They then arrest fermentation by cooling the wine (yeast cannot convert sugar into alcohol at low temperatures). At that point, they use a wide variety of microfilters to remove any solids and to remove most of the yeast (although some of the yeast remains).

Then, when they are ready (and the fact that they can wait until they are ready will become important when we discuss the fact that they start with must and not a base wine), they allow the fermentation to begin again. Once they obtain the final wine that they desire, they filter again to remove all of the yeast and any solids that may remain. And then they bottle.

The process I’ve described above has a million different variations and every winemaker approaches the process differently, depending on the house’s style. But these are the fundamental steps in producing Moscato d’Asti today. And as we will see in future posts, it’s part of what makes Moscato d’Asti such a unique and distinctive wine.

In early 2019, I’ll begin sharing a series of posts on some of the more technical aspects of Moscato d’Asti and how it is made.

Stay tuned… And in the meantime, have a very Moscato holiday season!

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Jeremy Parzen
After obtaining his Ph.D. in Italian literature at U.C.L.A. in 1997, Jeremy Parzen moved to New York City where he shifted his focus to food and wine. By 1998, he was the chief wine writer for the English-language edition of La Cucina Italiana. In 2005, he published his annotated translation of Maestro Martino's 15th century cookery book, The Art of Cooking (University of California Press). In 2007, he launched his blog (named after the Venetian expression for two glasses of white wine). Since that time, he has published countless articles on Italian food and wine, including bylines for publications like Decanter and Wine and Spirits, which named him a "Master of Place" in 2017. Known for his humanist perspective onto the world of Italian enogastronomy, he works as wine and restaurant industry consultant from his home office in Houston, where he and his wife Tracie (a native Texan) are raising their two daughters. A former rock musician and songwriter, Jeremy continues to compose and record music with and for his family. He was honored to be named an Italian Association of Wine Merchants ambassador in 2018 for his "profound scholarship in the humanities, his great knowledge of winemaking, and his excellence in communications."


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