This past weekend I celebrated my grandmother’s 80th birthday AND the Fourth of July at Disney World. I was asked to bring “White wine that was low in alcohol, and perhaps something to toast with as well.” In order to kill two birds with one stone, I immediately decided to pick up Italian sparkling wine. And wanting to be able to please family members who enjoy different degrees of sweetness, I purchased bottles of Prosecco, Asti, and Moscato d’Asti. Everyone enjoyed the bottles, but I continued to hear the same question over and over: “Aren’t Asti and Moscato d’Asti the same thing?” My only response was to suggest taking another sip of each in order to decide the answer. But for you, my audience, I’m happy to go into detail about the wonderful world of light Italian sparklers.
An added benefit of these wines is that they offer a great way to bring a Champagne-esque feel to any occasion without draining your wallet. One reason these wines are less expensive than French Champagne or high-end sparkling wines from other regions in the world is because they’re made by the charmat process, a less time-consuming and labor-intensive process than the more elaborate methode champenoise used to make higher-end sparklers (I’ll save the specific differences between these two methods for another article).
It’s important to not to think of these wines as princely pretenders to the Champagne throne, but rather, more playful and less well-bred knaves with their own brand of charm. While Champagne can be rich and elegant, these wines are frivolous and refreshing. Champagne can be a little dry and little tight-fisted with the fruit, but these Italian sparklers playfully offer it to you in spades. Not to mention the fact that while Champagne is usually around 12.5 percent alcohol, Prosecco, Asti, and Moscato d’Asti are usually no more than 7.5 percent alcohol.
When chilled up nicely, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti and Asti taste especially great poolside, dock-side or anywhere outdoors as the temperature climbs – such as Disney World in July. And, with their happy bubbles, they’re also shoo-ins for celebrations any time of year, as they offer an expensive yet highly respectable way to bring sparkle to grand occasions, such as holidays, weddings, New Year’s Eve – or your grandmother’s 80th birthday.
The three range in sweetness-Prosecco is generally a little drier than Asti, while Moscato d’Asti is usually the sweetest of the three. They also range in the intensity of bubbles. Asti is fully sparkling (spumante), while Moscato d’Asti is gently sparkling (frizzante). Prosecco can come in either spumante or frizzante styles.
Prosecco is made from the Prosecco grape and most often produced in Italy’s Veneto region. Light, crisp and refreshing, this easy-to-love sparkling wine goes well with many foods. Chicken salad, Eggs Benedict and other light brunch and lunch dishes make for winning combinations. However, like many sparkling wines, Prosecco shines when paired with just about anything, not to mention that it is great for making Bellinis.
Made in the Piedmont region of Italy near the town of Asti, Moscato d’Asti possesses just a hint of sparkle along with peachy flavors that appeal to those who enjoy a little sweetness in their sip. Light and refreshing, it’s usually low in alcohol, making it tailor-made for sipping on a warm day. It pairs especially well with fruit desserts.
You have probably enjoyed Asti under another name; years ago it used to be called “Asti Spumante.” Now it’s simply “Asti.” Like Moscato d’Asti, this sparkling wine also is made near the town of Asti from the Moscato grape; the difference is that it’s a little less sweet and it sparkles more fully. It pairs well with dessert, though anyone who likes sweeter wines like White Zinfandel will enjoy it with their entree, too.