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Moscato D'Asti--A Buyer's Guide

August 22, 1996|MATT KRAMER

Buying Moscato d'Asti is one of wine's easier assignments. Because it's such a specialty item, almost every producer's version is worthwhile. Only a select group makes Moscato d'Asti, all high-minded. But freshness is critical, as nearly all Muscat wines lose their qualities as they get older.

The 1995 vintage is just appearing on the market, and that's the vintage to insist on. Happily, '95 was an excellent year in Piedmont, creating Moscato d'Asti with exceptional finesse. The '95s really shine.

Three producers in particular are outstanding: Saracco, Icardi and Rivetti. When you find one of these producers, you will land on Moscato d'Asti at its best. Each offers Moscato d'Asti in a slightly different style.

Paolo Saracco makes the richest-tasting and most texturally dense of the three. Saracco's Moscato wines (he makes several bottlings) probably more resemble Gemma Chionetti's antique version than any other commercial producer's.

In comparison, Pierino Icardi's Moscato has almost as much richness yet brims with finesse and delicacy. Not least is Rivetti (also known as Cascina La Spinetta), a family producer that makes a very perfumed, delicate style that some fanciers consider the most attractive of all. In addition to these stellar examples are yet more top-drawer producers, such as Bera, Vignaioli di Santo Stefano and Vietti, among others.

Moscato d'Asti is best drunk young, fresh and well-chilled. It froths slightly upon pouring and then quickly settles down to a wine that feels creamy in the mouth, with just the faintest bubbliness.

As for accompaniments, simple sugar cookies or pound cake are ideal. Moscato d'Asti is superb with almost any chocolate creation (except ice cream). The combination of Piedmont's high-acidity Moscato Bianco with the richness of dark chocolate is a dessert lover's dream.

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