Italy produces more sparkling wines from more grape varieties than any other country.
Unfortunately for many Americans, Italian sparkling means plonk marketed as Asti Supmante in 1980s. Please, get past this. There are many wonderful, well-made Italian wines with carbonation.
Fully carbonated wines are called spumante (sparkling). Those with less carbonation are called frizzante (fizzy or frothy). Bottle tells difference: spumante comes with traditional mushroom cork and wire cage, frizzante in regular bottle and cork.
Two regions produce sparkling sparklings:
• Piedmont, in northwestern Italy next to the French-Swiss border; town of Asti is center of production and Muscato Bianco the main grape.
• Veneto, in northeastern Italy above Venice; made with Prosecco (now called glare) grape.
Many Italian sparkling wines are made using tank fermentation; they are sweeter and fruiter and more affordable than many sparklers made using méthod champenoise (some Italian sparklers are created with traditional method, too).
Moscato d’Asti is a pour that pleases almost everyone, especially women—it is a lovely Valentine’s Day wine. Made in Asti region with Muscat grapes, fermentation is stopped early, holding alcohol content low and ensuring plenty of sweetness and generous fruit. In quality Moscato d’Asti—there are many—acid balances sweetness, aromatics are spectacular. Frizzante is dominant style.
Moscato d’Asti often is dessert wine, but it also works as an aperitif (before the meal), as lunchtime refresher (especially in summer). Some call it the perfect breakfast wine.
Moscato d’Asti is best young; buy the newest vintage available; serve chilled. Live la dolce vita (the sweet life).
• Batasiolo Bosc Moscato d’Asti Dla Rei. Dessert wine, excellent finish to your meal. $18
• Elio Perrone Moscato d’Asti Sourgal. Melons, vanilla, sweet. $19
• Scrapona Moscato d’Asti. Pair with almost any fruit and soar. $20