For centuries, French wines have set standards to inspire winemakers around the world. No other country has France’s long history of fine wine production, which has helped define wine styles around the world.
How significant is France in the world of wine? The most popular international grape varieties, from Chardonnay to Merlot to Cabernet Sauvignon, are native to France. In many years France produces (and consumes!) more wine than any other country. Its production and export of fine wines is unmatched.
The ancient Greeks were the first to take advantage of France’s potential for wine production, as they planted vines in their colonies along the Mediterranean coastline more than 2,500 years ago. After the Romans conquered Gaul in 51 B.C., they took vines and winemaking practices north across the land. In the following centuries, Christian monasteries became centers for viticulture, and their monks made pioneering advances in both winemaking and distilling. By the Middle Ages, the English had already recognized the excellence of wines of France, and while they controlled Bordeaux they expanded the region’s existing vineyards to supply the brand-new export market.
The official Asti DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is near the city of the same name, in the Alpine foothills of northwestern Italy.
Sparkling Asti wine comes in two forms: the fully sparkling Asti (once known as Asti Spumante) and Moscato d’Asti, which is just gently fizzy, or frizzante. Both are made from the Moscato Bianco grape, with rich flavors of apricot and peach. They are semi-sweet to sweet and low in alcohol – often between just 5 and 9 percent – because the wines’ production method halts fermentation before all the grapes’ natural sugars have been converted to alcohol.
Bubbly Asti is packaged in a Champagne-style bottle. The milder-mannered Moscato d’Asti is typically packaged like a regular table wine with standard cork, but it may surprise you with a small pop upon opening, so use care in removing the cork. Both wines are best served chilled, after a meal or with dessert.