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Asti is a city and subregion of Piedmont, in the northwest of Italy. The famous sparkling wine produced here was once known as Asti Spumante, but was shortened to just Asti (probably to dump the baggage of its mass-produced past) when it became a DOC in 1994. As a region, it also spills into parts of Cuneo and Alessandria.
Asti is made from the Moscato grape, and is slightly sweet. For a long while, as Asti Spumante, it was produced even sweeter on purpose, and imported pretty cheaply. But Asti has grown up a bit, with more of its natural acidity brought to the fore when produced with care.
Most commercial Asti is produced in the Charmat method, which means the grape must is stored in steel tanks in frigid temperatures to avoid fermentation. Then it is activated with yeast at a later time, but the tanks are kept sealed to avoid carbon dioxide loss. When the alcohol and residual sugar levels have met requirements (which vary by producer), it is chilled down again to stop the fermentation. Then it is filtered, bottled and corked. But some Asti wine-makers have taken to producing it in the Metodo Classico, or Champagne method, with second fermentation in the bottle.
Moscato d’Asti is the sweeter wine produced in the same zone as Asti. The fermentation process is stopped earlier than with Asti, which retains its residual sugars and also keeps its alcohol levels lower. ~Amanda Schuster
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