Low and slow and richly aromatic

This is yet another way that Moscato d’Asti represents an entirely unique style of winemaking and wine.

Last week we posted about how Moscato d’Asti is produced.

As we noted in the post, Moscato d’Asti is fermented and re-fermented at very low temperatures over a remarkably long period of time. It’s almost unthinkable that a winemaker would ferment a wine over the course of months as opposed to days. But that’s how Moscato d’Asti has always been made.

Moscato d’Asti is a low alcohol wine, usually around 7.5 or 8 percent of alcohol in a 750ml bottle (compare with 12 percent for the average white wine and 13.5 percent for the average red wine). To borrow an adage from Texas barbecue, whose pit masters smoke their meats at very low temperatures over a very long period of time, Moscato d’Asti is “low and slow.” There are a handful of wines that are slower but Moscato is right up there with them!

Because of the unusual way that Moscato d’Asti is produced and because of the fact that no sugar is ever added to Moscato once the vinification process begins, Moscato d’Asti can be produced in a totally oxygen free environment.
Oxygen and the lack thereof play a big role in winemaking in general. Finding the right balance is the key to making the great wines of the world because both oxidation (the presence of oxygen) and reduction (the absence of oxygen) are fundamental to the winemaking process.

But too much oxygen can make a wine lose its fruitiness. (If you’ve ever tasted an “oxidative” wine like sherry or Jura, you know that the wines have a more nutty and less fruity character.)

And here’s where it gets really interesting.

Because of the unique way that Moscato d’Asti is made and because of the fact that Moscato Bianco (the sole grape used in its production) is such a richly aromatic grape variety, the winemaking process used by Moscato producers is entirely reductive. That means that oxygen (through oxidation) never gets the chance to mute the bright fresh fruit aromas and flavors in the wine. There’s always a little bit of oxygen present. It’s necessary for fermentation to take place. But because the wines are made in the very same tank, from start to finish, the winemakers never have to “rack” the wines (i.e., move it from one tank to other, thus exposing it to oxygen). And the extremely low levels of oxygen ensure that the wines never lose that fresh character.

This is yet another way that Moscato d’Asti represents an entirely unique style of winemaking and wine.

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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 DoBianchi.com (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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