Crisp, Sparkling, Delicately Sweet: Moscato d’Asti
Not your Nicki Minaj Moscato, these refreshing semi-sparkling wines are perfect for brunch – or even breakfast – with loved ones.
My earliest memory of wine as a child was the winter of 1976. The family and I were celebrating New Year’s Eve. I was 8 years old at the time and my sister 6. We were about to throw a tantrum if we were not allowed to watch the ball drop in Times Square, so to appease us before we had to go to bed, our parents gave us a taste of the “Champagne” they had chosen for ringing in the new year. It turned out to be Asti from Italy and a producer who, to this day, is one of the most recognized, especially at the holidays. Every morning, brushing my teeth conjures images of that unforgettable taste of metal and sugar.
Many summers ago, on one of the hottest days of the year, a sales friend introduced us to another one of those sparklers from Italy. Of course I was hesitant; first a baby sip, then a real sip, then I needed a refill and we had to crack another bottle – this stuff was amazing! On its own, Moscato d’Asti, a distant cousin to Asti Spumante, might be the most refreshing wine in the world.
Moscato d’Asti’s great appeal starts with an alcohol level between 5 and 7 percent, so you can drink it all day long and still act like a human being. The wine is semi-sparkling with less atmospheres of carbon dioxide than sparkling wine or champagne. Very much like the gamay grape in the wines of Beaujolais, Moscato Bianco – the grape in Moscato d’Asti – should be consumed young, primarily to preserve the fruit. And once you start a bottle, it is impossible not to finish it.
Great producers such as Giorgio Rivetti, Elio Perrone and Elvio Tintero make wines with the aromas and flavors of orchard-fresh peaches and nectarines with a wonderful backbone of crispy acidity. As for food, the classic pairing is with desserts or as an aperitif with goat cheeses and salt-cured hams like Prosciutto di Parma, jamon serrano and Virginia ham. However, I can think of no better way to enjoy these wines than to start the day off with a bottle at breakfast or brunch with people you love. Just save brushing your teeth until after lunch, and hold the rap music for your Moet and Red Bull when you’re at the club that night.