Finding optimal food and wine pairings might not be a requirement for enjoying a meal, but it sure can elevate the dining experience. Classic matches tend to focus on either contrasting or complementary flavors, which respectively make the flavor elements pop or blend. Having studied the characteristics of ideal pairings as a Certified Specialist of Wine and tasted a wide range of them over time, I'm always curious to venture outside of my usual picks.
Many wines that you might not consider in your regular repertoire work splendidly with dishes you love. If you aren't accustomed to sipping on sweet or sparkling wines, the world of Asti DOCG wines will give you a good reason to start. The moscato bianco grape is at the center of the region's two wines, Moscato d'Asti DOCG and Asti Spumante DOCG. The Designation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin is a label given to wines grown in a specific area following a set of regulations. We're not talking about any ordinary bottle of moscato here; to qualify as Asti DOCG, it must come from a limited area in the Piedmont region of Italy and be made according to particular growing, harvesting, and vinification methods.
I've selected my top picks of bottles that have gotten the seal of approval from the Consorzio dell'Asti DOCG (the regulating body) and matched them with my favorite food pairings. While desserts feature prominently, there are plenty of creative ways to pair these wines. For more information on how I made these selections, check out the end of this article.
1. Cheese Board And Prunotto Moscato d'Asti DOCG
A nice spread of assorted cheeses is a great way to whet your appetite or finish off a meal. No matter the size, when assembling the ultimate cheese board, it's a good idea to incorporate variety. Choose soft, medium, and firm cheeses to mix up the textures, as well as a crumbly option if you have the space. Meanwhile, look for a range of flavors from mild to pungent to avoid overpowering your palate. Nuts, dried fruits, and olives add gourmet flair and salty-sweet notes. Finally, don't forget mixed crackers, thinly sliced bread, and a jelly spread for a fruity finish.
Pick up a bottle of Prunotto Moscato d'Asti DOCG to go with your pre or post-dinner cheese munchies. This elegant wine is brimming with light fruit and floral aromas and a hint of sage lingering on the finish. With its low alcohol content of 5%, it works just as well as a slow warm-up or wind-down after a meal accompanied by wine. Serve it chilled for a refreshing palate cleanser to wash down a rich chunk of cheese.
2. Charcuterie And Gancia Asti DOCG
A charcuterie board adds a sophisticated touch to any event, regardless of whether it's going to win design awards. A simple selection keeps the prep work easy while ensuring there's something for all tastes. Include sliced salami or chop up salami sticks for a more textured choice. Then, pick up some prosciutto and add a twist with spicy chorizo or soppressata. Include some breadsticks, crackers, or sliced baguette to pair with your meaty offerings. While you might be accustomed to serving charcuterie with red wine (especially if you've internalized the notion that meat requires red wine), a sparkling option is an appealing pairing that's far more festive.
Gancia's history spans almost two centuries, starting with the founder's winemaking education in Reims, France, the home of Champagne. One of the distinguishing factors of the iconic sparkling wine is its secondary fermentation in the bottle, known as the traditional or classic method. While today it is used around the world, in the mid-1800s, it was a novel concept in Italy, introduced by Carlo Gancia.
The winery has since expanded to make various types of wine, but its reputation and understanding of sparkling wine have not wavered. Asti DOCG follows an alternate technique of secondary fermentation known as the Martinotti (or Charmat) method, to retain moscato's aromatic qualities. The wine features prominent notes of tropical fruit, sage, and honey that make a perfect contrast to cured and smoked meats.
3. Oysters And Ca' D'Gal Asti Spumante DOCG
Sure, champagne and oysters are a perfect pair, but that doesn't mean you have to limit yourself. The briny mollusks are an excellent addition to a seafood feast, served on the half shell or broiled with a topping. If you're opting for the former, avoid making an excessively acidic mignonette. Stick to fruity ingredients such as finely diced green apple, or incorporate maple syrup into an apple cider mignonette for a touch of sweetness. Similarly, a creamy gratin topping with bread crumbs, butter, and herbs makes a seamless companion to fragrant moscato.
Asti spumante and oysters might be an unexpected pairing, but the wine still offers a creamy mousse as with the more traditional duo. Try a bottle of Ca' D'Gal Asti spumante DOCG to contrast a platter of oysters. Notes of elderflower, peach, and musk come together in each sip, balanced by herbal and citrus aromas to round it out. Who knows -- you might just discover your new favorite match for oysters.
4. Spicy Curries And Azienda Agricola Terrabianca's Vignot
If you've ever paired a spicy curry with a tannic red wine and felt the inside of your mouth burn from the heat as you wince at the unpleasant bitterness, then you know better than to do that again. Curries combine a multitude of spices and fragrances to build up flavor, resulting in deliciously rich meals that rarely need more than a side of steamed white rice. Whether the flavor profile includes red curry paste, lemongrass, and galangal, or star anise, cumin, and Kashmiri chilis, you'll want a sweet or off-dry wine to subdue the heat.
Azienda Agricola Terrabianca's Vignot is a Moscato d'Asti DOCG wine that suits your spicy curry pairing needs. With a delicate mousse and an aromatic character, it cleanses the palate with bold notes of musk, white flowers, and stone fruit. Thanks to a low alcohol content, it also makes a great counterpart for the potent flavors and spice in the curry, guaranteeing a seamless sip.
5. Sponge Cake And Cascina Castlèt Moscato d'Asti DOCG
A timeless dessert is a great way to end a meal in style, and a sponge cake (homemade or purchased) is sure to satisfy sweet cravings. There are plenty of variations, including chiffon cake and angel food cake. You could choose a recipe that incorporates nuts into the batter or as a garnish. Hazelnuts in particular make a delightful pairing with Moscato d'Asti, but slivered almonds do the trick too. Perhaps you might also stick with the Italian theme and serve thick slices of panettone along with the sweet wine.
Cascina Castlèt's Moscato d'Asti DOCG is brimming with fragrance and floral aromas. The bold notes make it a pleasant pairing with a simple sponge cake, as well as variations featuring dried fruit or nuts. The sweetness complements the cake, especially with the accompanying fruit on the palate. A hint of acidity prevents the pairing from becoming cloying, while the low alcohol content (5.5%) ensures you won't finish off your meal with one glass too many.
6. Nuts And Dried Fruit And Braida Vigna Senza Nome
For a simple and fuss-free way to end a meal, bring out a selection of nuts and dried fruit. Choose raw and unsalted nuts for a subtler taste, or opt for roasted varieties to bring out their nutty qualities. If you're a fan of sweet and salty contrasts, choose salted varieties, and if you want to firmly distinguish them as dessert nuts, reach for candied treats. Almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans ... the list is endless. Meanwhile, choose an assortment of dried raisins, figs, apricots, and dates for a sweet and chewy match.
Braida's Vigna Senza Nome Moscato d'Asti DOCG offers a bubbly finish to make the basic dessert stand out. Brimming with floral aromas and notes of rose and orange blossom, this wine brings a welcome richness to the table. A refreshing presence of fruit on the nose infuses it with vivacity, making it decidedly pleasant to sip with nuts, dried fruit, and desserts containing either component.
7. Fruit-Based Desserts And Tenuta Olim Bauda Moscato d'Asti DOCG Centive
Thanks to its fruity profile, Moscato d'Asti is a great match for several fruit-based desserts. Depending on the seasonal availability, you could serve strawberry shortcake, apple tart, rhubarb galette, or berry crumble with it. Stone fruit desserts work well, especially recipes that feature apricots or peaches, both commonly tasted in the wine. Blackberry cheesecake or a flaky puff pastry roll stuffed with pears is just as delightful. If it's the peak of summer, simplicity is key; serve fruit salad with a dollop of cream and let the fragrant aromas of the wine do the rest of the talking.
While most Moscato d'Asti wines make a suitable pairing for fruity desserts, we recommend a bottle of "Centive" by Tenuta Olim Bauda. This perfumed wine presents notes of flowers and fruit, notably elderflower and citrus. A hint of sage balances it out with a savory character and a freshness that's emphasized by the gentle acidity. The delicate bubbles are playful yet subtle enough that they don't overpower the rest.
8. Crudites And Bava Moscato d'Asti DOCG
If you're hosting a dinner party or want to put out some snacks for game night, a stacked platter of crudites with dip is essential. Salty canapes and cheese boards have their place, but a varied selection of raw veggies like carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower guarantees you'll get your vitamins and minerals too. Serve a classic ranch dip or mix up your own with sour cream or Greek yogurt. Alternatively, go green and make a smooth avocado sauce to dip your veggie spears.
Bring out a chilled bottle of Bava Moscato d'Asti DOCG to sip with your crunchy snacks. This deliciously scented wine is packed with bold flavors in every sip. The gentle mousse brings a festive air to the occasion while amping up the crudites from ordinary to glam. With sweet fruit notes and a floral nature, every sip of this well-balanced moscato wows your senses. Savor the juicy acidity as it cleanses your palate for the next bite.
9. Creamy Desserts And Batasiolo Moscato d'Asti DOCG Bosc Dla Rei
If you're rounding off your meal with a rich and creamy dessert, you don't have to miss out on a final glass of wine. With its delicate bubble and perfumed aroma, Moscato d'Asti makes a great match. Serve a treat as simple as vanilla ice cream, or go a step further with a peach or apricot gelato. Alternatively, bring gourmet flair to the table by serving crème brulee. The caramelized top makes a delicious contrast to the soft mousse of the wine as it shatters and melts in your mouth. Meanwhile, if you want to stick with the Italian wine theme, consider a classic panna cotta for a sweet finish.
Pour Batasiolo Moscato d'Asti DOCG Bosc dla Rei to accompany the creamy palate. This moderately sweet wine has a refreshing quality thanks to the cold fermentation technique that retains the fruity aromas. Notes of rose, orange flowers, peach, apricot, and figs dance in the glass, balanced by crispness and a hint of acidity. Whether you're sticking to a plain scoop of vanilla or building a layered panna cotta, this bright moscato will win you over.
10. Quiche Or Frittata And Cascina Fonda Asti Spumante DOCG Bel Piasì
You probably don't spend much time thinking about the right wine to serve with your sunny-side-up eggs in the morning, but when those eggs appear in a quiche or veggie frittata, it's fair game. That said, picking the right bottle requires careful attention to avoid unpleasant taste or textural combinations. Quiche incorporates various vegetables; a classic quiche Lorraine works in ham and cheese. Frittatas boast similar fillings, offering various ingredients to highlight with your pairing.
Bring on the brunch vibes (orange juice optional) with a bottle of Asti spumante DOCG "Bel Piasì" by Cascina Fonda Winery. This sweet bubbly offers an excellent balance of acidity on the palate, rounding out the sugar with a refreshing finish. Notable grape aromas are present on the nose, along with white flowers, peaches, honey, and caramel. The soft mousse adds an element of creaminess to each sip, complementing the custardy texture of your egg dish. Whether it's loaded with meat or vegetables, this bottle of spumante makes a dazzling match.
11. Glazed Ham And Tosti Asti DOCG
A sticky slab of glazed ham makes a festive main dish, but it might not pair as well with your usual go-to wines. Take advantage of its sugary nature with a complementary pairing of sweet bubbly. Glazed ham often incorporates maple syrup, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and pineapple, offering plenty of complementary notes to match with the wine. Thanks to its bold flavors, a basic mashed potato and vegetable side are all you need to complete the meal.
Pick up a bottle of Tosti Asti DOCG Dolce for a sweet sidekick to pair with a juicy slice of ham. This fruity wine prominently features grape flavors, a hallmark of moscato bianco grapes. With a slightly higher alcohol content than other options on our list (7% ABV), it stands up well to the meaty main course. The celebratory nature of the dish is sure to be amplified, and you'll have just the right amount of mousse to cleanse your palate after every bite.
12. Garlic Shrimp And Roberto Sarotto Moscato d'Asti DOCG Solatìo
A plate of garlic shrimp packs bold flavor into every bite. From the juicy texture of the crustaceans to the sweet taste of the alliums, this flavor sensation is sure to satisfy garlic lovers. Prep the shrimp on the grill for an extra smoky touch to contrast with the protein. Not only is garlic shrimp super easy to prepare, but it's extremely versatile. Prep it as an appetizer or serve it with your favorite pasta or grain for a hearty meal that will fill you up. If you're tossing it with pasta, a white wine or cream sauce makes a great match.
To pair with this savory dish, try a bottle of Roberto Sarotto's Moscato d'Asti DOCG "Solatìo." This aromatic wine boasts floral and fruit aromas with a soft finish, the perfect contrast to pungent garlic shrimp. A subdued bubble adds some body to the glass, ensuring this perfumed wine isn't overwhelmed by the strongly flavored food. Serve it chilled for a refreshing accompaniment to your meal.
13. Buffalo Wings And Emilio Vada Moscato d'Asti DOCG Campbianc
For chicken wing lovers, a zingy plate of buffalo wings is the key to happiness. While the poultry dish might be a mainstay at bars, you don't have to restrict your drink order to a pint of beer. Thanks to the zesty flavors of the sauce, you can expand your pairings beyond the usual. If you're piling on the spice, you need something to tame the heat and prep your palate for the next bite. Plus, you might be dipping those hot wings into a creamy, tangy sauce too.
A bottle of Moscato d'Asti DOCG Cambianc by Emilio Vada checks the boxes for a satisfying pairing. The fruity wine presents a balanced sweetness to offset the heat from the chicken wings. It contrasts the punchy sauce with fruity and floral aromas, creating a refreshing sensation on the palate that begs for the next bite. Additionally, the low alcohol level prevents any unpleasant interaction with the spice, making this semi-sparkling wine a great sipper for your plate of buffalo wings.
14. Vegetable Tempura And Marenco Scrapona Moscato d'Asti DOCG
If you enjoy fried food but want a lighter take on it, tempura is the answer. The delicate batter creates a paper-thin shell that offers all the crispiness you need without the heaviness. For a fun appetizer to switch things up, whip up a batch of vegetable tempura. Toss asparagus spears and large pieces of squash, zucchini, mushrooms, and other veggies with a tempura batter and fry them until golden. Serve the crunchy bites with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, and dashi.
Enjoy this salty dish with a contrastingly sweet wine. Marenco Vini's Scrapona Moscato d'Asti DOCG is an excellent candidate for this duo. This bold wine features fruity notes of lime, apricot, passion fruit, and grape, alongside an herbal element and a floral finish. The gentle bubbles and light acidity help cleanse the palate, making this refreshing wine a suitable match for fried tempura veggies.
The moscato grape is notably aromatic, which narrows the possible food pairings to a certain degree. That said, I chose to expand beyond desserts since these wines can complement and contrast numerous tastes, from sweet to salty to spicy. I only chose wines with the DOCG seal, which reduced the selection to producers classified as such by the Consorzio dell'Asti DOCG. This requires them to adhere to strict quality regulations, including aspects that I prioritize, such as hand-harvesting of grapes.
Among the DOCG selection, I sought bottles that displayed the balance of sweetness, acidity, and aroma that pairs best with these particular foods. I alternated between semi and fully-sparkling wines depending on the characteristics of the foods in question. For example, dishes with bolder flavors that could stand up to the palate-cleansing effects of more carbonation were paired accordingly.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.