Nestled deep in the pocket of the Piedmont region in the northwest of Italy are the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Langhe, the production area of Moscato d’Asti DOCG. While the reds of Piedmont have been making noise for some time now, if you listen closely, you’ll hear a softer music, rising in reverberation from those green slopes. That would be the gentle frizzante susurration of Moscato d’Asti, the seductively fragrant, subtly bubbled sparkler that’s about to take center stage in our sipping lives.
If you don’t know Moscato d’Asti, now’s the time to listen up. The soft, unsung sparkler is prime for a solo — coming to a shelf, wine list, and countless long, sun-drenched afternoons near you. And the name to look out for is Nivole.
Yes, Piedmont will always be known for its trove of nimbly seductive reds (as well as a few trademark whites, including the elegant Gavi and the plucky Arneis). But Moscato d’Asti is about to have its moment, because consumers aren’t waiting for “big” moments to pop a bottle of bubbly. Sure, we’ll put something aside for an anniversary, or the day we finally earn that MFA, but in the meantime, we want meaningful bubbles that can be beautifully integrated into the small victories of our real hustling and bustling lives.
We’re looking for lifestyle wines — lifestyle sparklers, to be exact. We want something lithe and lively to carry us through the day and well into the night, as rewarding on the palate as they are rich in tradition — because culture is its own flavor, too. Moscato d’Asti DOCG answers that call, and the Nivole Moscato d’Asti from Michele Chiarlo most of all, with every fragrant, subtly sweet, aromatic pop. Truly, Nivole is a benchmark of the style. Even the label, with its warm orange sunset over green hills, calls to mind the verdant vineyards, orange blossom, and peach flavors in the bottle.
In fact, that’s the beauty of Moscato d’Asti. It’s sort of like jazz: There’s no one dominant note, but a variety of intermingling elements that make it perfect for modern sparkling drinkers. For one, there’s an elegance to it. It’s made with a single variety of grape, Moscato Bianco (a.k.a. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), which can be found all over the world, though it’s truly at home in Piemonte and Asti. Older than Cabernet Sauvignon, Moscato Bianco is indigenous to the region, the purest expression of terroir.
The wine’s history dates back several hundred years. In fact, the first person to set down a process for making Moscato d’Asti was a 16th-century Milanese jeweler, Giovan Battista Croce, who made jewels for the Duke of Savoy. Once he discovered the potential of Moscato, he turned his attention to a different kind of luxury sparkle and set down a formula for Moscato d’Asti that would lay the groundwork for the modern methodology.
When you see the bubbly in action, it tracks that the process for making Moscato d’Asti began with a jeweler. There’s an appreciation for a refined, elegant sparkle in the production of it, including hand-harvesting and cold-fermenting the grapes.
Nivole Moscato d’Asti is perhaps one of the purest expressions of that process. Its grapes are hand-harvested and soft-pressed, allowing for the most tender and supple aromatics of the grape to permeate the juice and set the stage for a mosaic of delicate flavors to come.
Moscato d’Asti is, and has been since its creation, naturally cut off at around 5 percent ABV. With one and a half to two bars of atmospheric pressure, those subtle, seductive frizzante bubbles distinguish artisanal Moscato d’Asti from busier, brasher sparklers on the market.
Again, if you think of it like jazz, the subtlest, softest shuffling beat in the music is what keeps your toes tapping and your body swaying as the night goes on. The bubbles in Moscato d’Asti work the same way: The delicate effervescence of Nivole Moscato d’Asti carries the vibe along all night long — no brash or brassy trumpet solos, no wild minor key deviations from the fresh-fruit melody. It’s a steady tickle of frizzante bubbles mingling with luscious flavors on your palate.
Speaking of sipping, there’s another reason Moscato d’Asti is perfect for the modern palate. It’s sweet, but subtly so. Unlike other Moscato wines, and other sweet wines on the market, Moscato d’Asti is not considered a dessert wine. In fact, because of the specific way it’s made, Moscato d’Asti is naturally low-sugar, ideal for the kind of everyday sipping and celebrating we’re all craving these days. However, the flavor profile doesn’t stop at subtle sweetness, and the Nivole Moscato d’Asti is a complex melody, fleshy peach and apricot with a subtle aria of orange blossom and soft savory notes of sage.
Since all of that flavor comes in at just 5 percent ABV, you’ll be able to savor every sip and still stay as bright and fresh as the fruit flavors in the glass. But chances are, you’ll want to do more than savor — you’ll want to share, and pair. A glass of Nivole expresses tender stone fruit flavors, subtle herbal notes, soft sweetness, and citrusy florals, all riding the rhythm of gentle bubbles. That sort of combination belongs in numerous settings and occasions, from poolside charcuterie snacking to brunch to an all-out foodie neighborhood block party where homemade flavors range from vegan jackfruit jerk “chicken” to cucumber salad with Thai chilis and peanuts to porky-sweet lechon asado with piquant mojo sauce. Nivole Moscato d’Asti carries a taste of the sunny Piedmont hillsides, but what’s in the bottle belongs with a world of flavors.
Consumers will notice. Others already have. Just this year the 2020 Nivole was awarded 92 points from Wine Enthusiast. But high marks for the Nivole also shouldn’t surprise; Michele Chiarlo’s 2018 Cipressi Nizza was rated the #1 Wine in the World by Wine Enthusiast.
Going forward, the outlook for the Nivole is good. Winemaker Stefano Chiarlo notes the 2021 vintage was “as excellent as the previous one. … The circumstances have been ideal for the development of a rich and elegant bouquet, … a wine characterized by fine bubbles … with a dry and not excessively sweet finish, fully embodying the style of Nivole.”
Considering how much style there is in the style of Nivole, that’s good news for a sweet, sparkling year ahead.
This article is sponsored by Nivole.