Ceretto Santo Stefano Moscato d'Asti 2018
The Langhe hills of Piedmont constitute that area of northern Italy where the wide and flat Pò river valley suddenly disappears and gives way on all sides to hulking and precipitous slopes. The Langhe hills are more than hills. They are ancient and rugged earth. Their narrow peaks are topped by castles, and they are thick to the horizon with grapevines. The Langhe hills are home to a small group of farmers and winemakers who, together, have succeeded in creating some of the planet’s finest expressions of place.
The Ceretto family is among that fortunate group. For three generations members of the Ceretto family have transformed the fruit of the Langhe’s vineyards into wines that speak of the regions identity. The famed Italian gastronome and intellectual Luigi Veronelli wrote, "The land, the land, the land, the land, always, the land." This philosophy is central to the Ceretto family. Reverence for this land has passed from Riccardo, who blended fruit from the region’s best vineyards, to Bruno and Marcello, who purchased Langhe vineyards and began bottling single crus, and finally to Alessandro, who is taking the winery into the 21st century by using natural methods to foster vines that are stronger, healthier, and more in balance with their environment. The Ceretto family has always been committed to producing the most expressive and authentic wines their land can yield.
Recognized as the source of the best Barbera in all of Italy, Asti is a province (as well as major city) in Piedmont, consisting of a gentle, rolling landscape with vineyards, farmland and forests alternating throughout.
Barbera d’Asti can be made in an array of styles from relatively straightforward, fruity and ready for consumption early, to the more concentrated, oak aged version with an ability to cellar impressively for 10-15 years and beyond. Some of the very best sites for Barbera in Asti are concentrated in the subzone of Nizza Monferrato. Other red varieties grown here include Freisa, Grignolino and Dolcetto, which can be bottled varietally or blended into Barbera.
Historically consumers commonly associated the Asti region with Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti, both playful, aromatic, sparkling wines made from the Muscat grape. Asti Spumante is less sweet, fully fizzy and more alcoholic (yet still clocking in at only around 9% alcohol) while Moscato d’Asti is sweeter, gently sparkling (“frizzante”) and closer to 5 or 6% alcohol. Each is produced in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fresh and fruity flavors of the grape, often including peach, apricot, lychee and rose petal. Asti is also the spot for the pink-hued Brachetto d'Acqui, a slightly sparkling wine ready to charm with its raspberry and rose flavors and aromas.
Alluringly aromatic and delightful, Muscat never takes itself too seriously. Muscat is actually an umbrella name for a diverse set of grapes, some of which are genetically related and some of which, are not. The two most important versions are the noble, Muscat blanc à Petits Grains, making wines of considerable quality and Muscat of Alexandria, thought to be a progeny of the former. Both are grown throughout the world and can be made in a wide range of styles from dry to sweet, still to sparkling and even fortified. It is well known in Italy's Piedmont region for Moscato d’Asti, a slightly sparkling, semi-sweet, refreshing wine that is low in alcohol. On the Iberian peninsula, it goes by Moscatel, not to be confused with Bordeaux's Muscadelle, which is acutally unrelated.
In the Glass
Muscat wines possess marked aromatics and flavors of peach, pear, Meyer lemon, orange, orange blossom, rose petal, jasmine, honeysuckle or lychee, often with a hint of sweet spice.
Thanks to its naturally low alcohol levels, Muscat is a perfect match for spicy Asian cuisine, especially when the wine has a little bit of residual sugar. Off-dry Muscat can work well with lighter desserts like key lime pie and lemon meringue, while fully sweet Muscat-based dessert wines are enjoyable after dinner with an assortment of cheeses.
Muscat is one of the oldest known grape varieties, dating as far back as the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Pliny the Elder wrote in the 13th century of a sweet, perfumed grape variety so attractive to bees that he referred to it as uva apiana, or “grape of the bees.” Most likely, he was describing one of the Muscat varieties.