Wine Guy Explains Wine Things: Lou Says, "Asti La Vista, Baby"

This week, we approached our favorite wine guy, Lou Amdur of Lou, with a fizzy question:

What's the difference between Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti? ... And was that a groan I heard, Lou, when I mentioned Asti Spumante?

But first: Apropos of nothing more than a little mood enhancing, let's let Jaclyn Smith bring us a Martini and Rossi moment from yesteryear before we begin.

Lou: I'm not knocking Asti Spumante, but it's not the best wine that comes from Asti. Asti Spumante is like the cheapest Prosseco, a cheap wine made in a sweet style that is artificially carbonated in tanks. They used to advertise in on TV as a champagne-type thing. The quality of the wine-making is very commercial, high level -- it's not a badly made wine. But it's just really mass-market and BLECH. On the other hand, there are very inviting Moscatos that come from the same part of Piemonte. One of them is this lovely Moscato that, in the right hands, is not something that is awkward or flat-footed. The frizzante part is lovely and delicate and ethereal.

Describe the taste of a good Moscato.

It's an aromatic grape variety. It smells so grape-y so there's this immediate sensation of real freshness. Imagine grapes, like grape soda, but it's much fresher and real -- as opposed to fake. It's pretty well carbonated, but it's light-bodied, not foamy like a champagne. It's sweet, but on the moderate end of sweetness. So it's not like drinking a soda. The sugar, of course, is all natural -- it's from the grapes itself. So in the right hands you capture the delicate, lovely freshness of the fresh grapes in an alcoholic beverage that happens to be sparkling. That's what it's like.

Who makes a Moscato d'Asti worth owning and enjoying?

There are two or three growers that make particularly good Moscato d'Asti. One is Piero Gatti. The other is Degiorgis. Vintages are negligible. You don't age them. These white grapes will ripen reliably even in a poor year. So that's why people like to grow it.

What is the question a customer has to ask to you to answer "Moscato d' Asti"?

Someone comes in, they've been schlepping around on a hot day in their car and they're staring blankly at the list. They say they want something red. Then I say, "How about trying something refreshing and white?" If I get a vibe from them that they might be open to that, I say, "Let me just pour you some of this." Sometimes, their first impression, once they taste the soft bubbles is, "Oh, it's sweet," said a little dismissively. But Moscato d' Asti is very seductive -- the wine is so delicate. The little bit of sugar in there is actually soul nourishing, in a way. It's reviving. It can be an aperitif or you can drink it at the end of a meal.

Any tips for someone buying it to drink at home?

If I was coming over to your house for dinner, I'd bring two bottles, we'd pop it in the fridge. After dessert, or even maybe with dessert, we'd open that and sit out on your back deck and enjoy some delicious post-dessert wine. Unless you've been brought up on a diet of strictly Gatorade, you're going to love it.

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