Asti (often referred to as Asti Spumante) became a DOC in 1967 and was elevated to DOCG status in 1993. It is a sweet, low alcohol, fully sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes around the town of Canelli in Piedmont. Over 22,000 acres are devoted to production and a whopping 8.5 million cases are produced annually.

The wine has its origins with Carlo Gancia, who did a stint with Champagne producers in Reims in the mid 1800s. He brought the production methods back to Piedmont and produced a sweet style of sparkler based on Muscat. Modern versions use the Charmat method as opposed to Methode Champenoise. Returning U.S. servicemen from World War II brought back a taste for Asti and demand boomed, particularly in the United States. The rapid increase in production dropped standards; however, and the wine got a bit of a bum rap as sweet and simple.

The last 20 years have seen a resurgence, and quality is now higher than ever. The wines are incredibly aromatic with floral peach and apricot flavors. Zesty acidity balances a more moderate level of sweetness and the wines make for an affordably delicious aperitif or pairing to Asian foods. Mondoro, Gancia, and Martini & Rossi are among the big dependable producers, but a raft of smaller estates are making truly eye-opening versions. (Wine/Appellations)