Monday, October 22, 2018

Tasting with Stefano Ricagno of Cuvage in Asti


I recently went on a Grappa tour that ended in the town of Asti which is located in the Piemonte region in northern Italy. The area is famous for Asti Spumante, a sweet, aromatic sparkler, that is often enjoyed at celebrations due to its easy drinking characteristics. Our group set out to enjoy a sparkling finish to our tour with 5th generation winemaker, Stefano Ricagno at Cuvage.  

He led us through the winemaking area where they are producing both Asti DOCG wines as well as Metodo Classico wines. Traditionally, the sparkling wines of the region have been made in the Martinotti method which is also known as Charmat. Federico Martinotti was a native of Piemonte so the local winemakers prefer to acknowledge and pay respect to him. He actually invented the method for making sparkling wine in a closed vat in 1895 while French winemaker, Eugene Charmat, would apply the concept on a more industrial level a little over a decade later and his name would become more well known. Metodo Classico means making wines sparkling in the same way they are made in Champagne with a second fermentation in the bottle. 

As we walked through the winery, we stopped at a tank and Stefano Ricagno served up samples of the Canelli Bianco Moscato juice. This type of white Moscato is indigenous to the town of Canelli in the Asti province. He shared that linalool is the name of the distinct aroma. Linalool is a naturally occuring terpene alcohol that can be found in some flowers and spice plants, it gives the wines a white flower or citrus blossom character. The juice was deliciously drinkable but we saved some of it to take back into the tasting room where three wines awaited us. All were from the Acquesi line and all were made from the same Canelli juice.

In the tasting room:
Acquesi Moscato d'Asti CasaritoIntensely aromatic and fresh, it differs from other Asti DOCG wines in that the fermentation process is halted when the alcohol content reaches about 5% by volume. Moscato d’Asti is not a true Spumante though it still has a lively sparkle. It has a sweet taste, but is not cloying, it tastes more like a ripe peach, than candy. This wine showed notes of honeysuckle, white peach and mint, with a fresh, juicy finish.

Acquesi Asti SpumanteAsti Spumante is often seen at celebrations due to its easy drinking characteristics. With moderate alcohol, a distinctive aroma and a well-balanced, natural sweetness, this wine has a lot to offer. Crisp, aromatic, lightly sweet and juicy, this off-dry wine is fully sparkling with a persistent mousse and fresh, lightly fruity flavors, with a slight savoriness and a bit of white pepper over honeyed peach flavors.

Acquesi Asti Secco - Light, crisp, and dry with a persistent mousse and more delicate aromas of apricot and citrus blossom with flavors of pear, mint and a slight nuttiness in the lingering finish.

Following our tasting room experience, we headed out into the neighboring vineyard in Strevi where Stefano Ricagno showed examples of some of the local grapevines, Moscato, Barbera, and Brachetto. We had the opportunity to taste some grapes off the vine and take in some beautiful views. After our vineyard tour, we went to lunch in Acqui Terme at Ristorante La Curia. Stefano ordered an antipasti array to enjoy while we continued our tasting which included a sampling of three local dishes: rabbit salad, Russian salad, and calamari on creamy basil. My entree of truffled risotto arrived in time to enjoy with the second Cuvage wine.

At the table:
Acquesi Rosé Brut - Dry and crisp with a delicate mousse and cranberry flavors with a slight salinity to the finish.
Cuvage Brut Rosé - This wine is made from 100% Nebbiolo in the same way as Champagne, called Metodo Classico in Italy, this wine had a persistent mouse with red fruit notes and hints of bread.
Cuvage Cuvage Pas Dosage - No dosage sparkling wine also made Metodo Classico from 60% Pinot Nero, 25% Chardonnay, and 15% Nebbiolo. This wine spent 36 months on its lees giving it freshness and a fuller body. With bakery notes and baking spices, this crisp, dry, sparkler has a distinct mineral finish from the limestone soils where the vines are grown.

An assortment of local cheese arrived to the table to enjoy with a sweet Asti Spumante. This wine is made by Stefano's family. The wine is made from 100% white Canelli Moscato from Alto Monferrato.
Ca’ dei Mandorli - Sweet and sparkling with notes of honey and sage.
The decandent lunch would end with a final course of a simple dessert similar to peanut brittle, but made from hazelnuts, Torrone di Nocciole . This was served with a local sweet Piemonte Moscato Passito wine from Pizzorni. No notes on this wine, but it was a delicious finale to our visit.