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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, November 17 2009. 13:05

Consorzio and Wines of Asti

One of the 8 provinces of the northwestern Italian state of Piemonte, Asti is usually connected in India with Barbera but is most famous for its sweet Moscato and Sparkling wines, as Subhash Arora discovered at a tasting visit to the consortium of Asti wines, recently

Barbera d'Asti is of course, well known for wines made from the Barbera grapes in the hilly areas of Asti (with 67 municipalities), though another province Alexandria with 51 municipalities is also entitled to use the classification which was a DOC wine since 1970 but has been granted a DOCG status since 2008.Incidentally, under the DOCG rules, a minimum of 85% Barbera grapes must be used; the balance may be made up with Freisa, Grignolino or Dolcetto grapes.

The wine must be made before March 1following the harvest and must reach an alcohol content of 11.5°. If the wine is aged for at least one year, at least 6 months of which is stored in oak or chestnut barriques, and has an alcoholic strength of at least 12.5% by volume, it can be labelled as "superiore" which has a longer aging potential and can often be aged from three to eight years.

Asti Spumante or simply referred to as Asti is a DOCG (since 1993) white sparkling wine produced in an area to the south of the town of Asti in Piedmont, Italy. Made from the Moscato Bianco grape, it is sweet and low in alcohol, around 5%, and usually drunk with dessert. The low alcohol level and a touch of sweetness makes it a perfect candidate for coupling with Indian spicy cuisine

Another wine called Moscato d'Asti is a still wine made in the same region and from the same grape, but produced by another technique which differentiates it from Asti.

I reached the Consorzio building in Isola d’Asti, after 45 minutes drive from my hotel in Torino, where I had been staying to visit the Wine Show- Salone del Vino. The General manager Mr. Aldo Squillari had been waiting for me. Giving me the history he says,.’ Consortium for the Protection of Asti was founded in December 1932. Its original purpose was to define the area of cultivation of the Moscato Bianco grapes used to produce Asti, the techniques of its preparation and the characteristics of the wine. In 1963, with the introduction of the appellation system, the Consortium played a decisive role in getting DOC status to Moscato d’Asti, Moscato d’Asti Spumante and Asti Spumante,’ adding that the wine was subsequently given a DOCG status in 1994

The Consortium certifies the production batches of the member companies and consigns the official seal, which attests compliance with the required norms. For this purpose, it has been provided the latest state-of –the art    equipment.

The laboratory for testing has the latest state of the art equipment where the definitive aromas and flavours can be pin-pointed. The lab is fully equipped to give complete details of the sample tests as required by law and then some, explains Mr. Squillari who has been with the Consorzio for a few months and brings ample experience from the industry,

But it always perplexes me how an association or a consortium of producers can help market the products and be responsible for quality control, I ask Mr. Squillari. He smiles and says,’ The new European Union laws have addressed this issue and with effect from August this year, the outside independent agency has been authorized to carry out the final certification.’

Asti is like Champagne- it produces 90m bottles of Asti 75 m of which are Spumante. Unlike Champagne, it uses Charmat method though-like in Prosecco, making it very affordable. It retails for an average of around $12 in the USA. The Moscato grape has high sugar levels with high acidity to give a sparkling wine with low alcohol and more sweetness.

Interestingly, communes around Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria-92 comunes (municipalities) in all, have the Asti Spumante but none of the wineries are located in Asti, he tells me.

Germany is a big importer-17 million bottles were exported last year-60% are consumed within Europe. Last year saw a drop of around 5% where it had been showing growth earlier. India is a market that interests them, says Mr. Squillari

Tasting Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti

I had a quick tasting of a few wines starting with Vigne Regali from Banfi. With 90 gms of residual sugar, it was quite fruity, citric and crisp wine- great with or as dessert and for the novices it could be a very attractive bevrage-especially for ladies; they would love its sweet-and zesty flavour, reminiscent of tropical fruits. Low alcohol is an added advantage for the beginners.

Gancia Modonovo, on the other hand had 9% alcohol and 65 gms residual sugar. As should be obvious, the fermentation can be stopped earlier to give lower alcohol or let it carry on , chewing off the sugar and adding to the alcohol content but resulting in lower sugar.

La Selvatica Asti DOCG Caudrina  was a 7 percenter with 90 gms sugar- it had persistent flavours and a long pleasant after taste delicious wine.

Terre da vino Monti Furchi 2008 did not impress in the aromas section but had a delectable seductive flavour.

Asti makes  a few passito wines too-which is drying the grapes for a few months thus reducing water content and concentrating sugar levels and have a very sweet wine- even with 600-650 gms per liter!

There is no standardization of bottles in this area and several fancy shapes were visible on the same shelf due to the individual preferences of the producers.

Asti and India

Asti white wines have massive international presence thanks to brands like Martini & Rossi which churns out 21 million bottles. It used to be known as Moscato Champagne in the US till the new laws blocked that classification. It is a great party drink-especially for the young novices and women. A glass or two as dessert or even aperitif with cheese can be a regular on the menu for a wine connoisseur. They score well on the price-quality chart and as such with time should find way into the Indian market.

Incidentally, Torino, Alessandria, Cuneo, Biella, Novara, Vercelli and Verbano- Cusio- Ossola are the other 7 provinces of Piemonte. For more details, visit

Subhash Arora


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