Tomorrow, our wine group will be conducting a tasting of Champagne and other Sparkling wines - at brunch, no less.
As part of my research, I’m looking into Spumantes, otherwise known as sparkling wines in Italy. Italian sparklers hold a place near and dear to my heart, since they were one of my early introduction to wine. I fondly remember one cool October morning, where I sat with three other friends in a piazza in Turin (one of the Piedmontese cities in northwestern Italy), sipping a tall glass of Moscato D’Asti. That, was life.
Spumante: Italian for sparkling
You can find most of Italy’s spumantes in the northern (and thus cooler) regions. Unlike champagne, most Italian sparkling wines are made using the Charmat method, where the second fermentation is done in tanks instead of in bottles. This technique produces young, crisp and low alcohol wines that should be consumed within a few years of purchase.
Astis are made from Moscato grapes (white), from Asti in Piedmont, the northwestern region of Italy. The craggy, limestone soil in the areas excellent for growing grapes, and Piedmont is one of the powerhouse regions of Italian wine country – non-sparkling wonders like Barolo, Barbera, and Barbarescos are other examples of the region’s wide
repertoire of grapes. Asti is light, sweet, with hints of peaches. High acidity. It’s typically a non-vintage wine and should be drunk early.
Moscato D’ Asti:
This is the higher class version of Asti Spumanti, if you will. Comes from the same region – Asti, though there are plenty of good fizzy moscatos in other Piedmontese regions like Alba as well, but these are less well known, and not readily found in the US. It’s less fizzy, and is light and crisp with typically 5%-7% of alcohol. Delightful summer drink, and makes for an elagant apertif. Good Moscato D’Asti is not over poweringly sweet, unlike many of the cheap commercially made crap for American palates.
Another sparkling wine from Piedmont is the Bracchetto. I haven’t tried this personally, but it’s a red sparkling wine, made from Brachetto grapes. According to some of the tasting notes I’ve read online, the wine is light, with hints of strawberry and cherry; makes for an excellent pairing with fruit/cheese or a light dessert, but is also a good pairing with pizza.
Trader Joes sells a delightfully cheap and easy to sip Lambrusco. It’s simple, unpretentious: fizzy and slightly sweet red sparkling wine. Best served chilled, and is an excellent, excellent pairing with spicy food. Lambruscos are found in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy (central).
Prosecco (derived from its grape) comes from the northeastern region of Italy, in Veneto (where Venice is). It’s the base for Bellinis (recipe: blend peaches into your prosecco). Light and refreshing, it has a lovely bouquet of melons, pears, and almonds. The wine is dry and crisp.
I’ve never tried this wine before either. Franciacorta is a name of a region in the Lombardy Lake District of Italy, and is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco (or Blanc), and Pinot Noir. Unlike most other Italian spumantes, Franciacorta is made using the French champagne method – i.e. wine is fermented in bottles. This results in tighter, smaller bubbles. Tasting notes online say that it is a dry, somewhat complex wine, with hints of almond, vanilla, and yellow ripe fruit. According to Italian wine law, Franciacorta must be aged for at least 18 months, vintage Franciacorta for 30 months.