New Year’s Eve conjures images of champagne corks popping and bubbly flowing as party goers sing, clock strikes midnight to ring new hope for all. Instead of buying the typical grocery store Champagne, we would like to give you some good reason to consider a good bottle of all Italian Prosecco , Asti Spumante or Moscato d’Asti.
Prosecco refers to the grape grown in the Treviso province of the Veneto region in northern Italy. It flourishes on the terraced hills between the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene regions north of Venice. The grapes full ripeness is achieved late in the season giving it its characteristic crisp and slightly bitter finish, making it perfect for use in dry sparkling (spumante) and semi-sparkling (frizzante) wines. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is made with the Charmat method pf producing sparkling wine in which the second fermentation takes place in pressurized tanks not in the bottle. The shorter, less labor intensive method is ideal for Prosecco as it preserves the crisp, young, fresh flavor of the grapes and keeps it affordable.
When choosing a good Prosecco look for the D.O.C. denominations: Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Prosecco di Conegliano or Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. These wines are always a good bet for quality. Also the sub-denomination Cartizze (indicating they were grown on the slopes around the village of San Pietro di Barbozza). These are known for their drier, more mineral characteristics. It is best to drink Prosecco within three years of its vintage to experience its peak freshness, although many of the high-quality wines are best aged up to seven years.
From Veneto you will have to travel all the way across north of Italy to Piemonte to find the other two wines to add to your list for the upcoming Holidays celebration, Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti.
The Moscato grape has been cultivated near the commune of Asti for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It is described in the Statues of the Comune di Cannelli written in the 1200’s. At the end of the 16th Century, a jeweler from Milan, Giovan Battista Croce, published a recipe for making Moscato D’Asti. Croce had become wealthy making jewelry for royalty. He moved to Turin and purchased a vineyard between the towns of Montevecchio and Candia. There, he worked on perfecting viticulture. In 1606 he published “Of the Excellence and Diversity of Wines that are Made on the Mountain of Turin and How To Make Them”. He explained that to make Moscato, the grapes are separated from the stems immediately before pressing. The must (unfiltered crushed grape juices) obtained is then vinified separately from the skins. The must is cleaned and disinfected forming a coperta. The juice is filtered repeatedly creating a clean sweet juice.
The Asti Spumante, also made from the same grape (Moscato Bianco) can be made in the same traditional method that is used for Champagne in which the wines undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle. More often than not though, they are made in a larger, more industrial method, in which the wine is allowed to go thru its fermentations in a large stainless tank. The resulting wine is lower in alcohol than most wines. Asti Spumante typically has 9% alcohol levels.
Both Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti of the best quality are produced under the rigorous control of the Consorzio dell’Asti D.O.C.G.
Now it’s be up to you, you might still want to pop a bottle of Champagne this upcoming New Year’s eve, just don’t say you don’t know the Italian way to toast.