The Moscato Bianco grape is an extremely ancient one, the origins of which are not precisely known. Wines from this grape were first developed as still wines in the 17th century under the patronage of the House of Savoy, when refined methods of cultivating and vinifying this difficult variety were discovered. The cool, steep Langhe hillsides of Asti and Cuneo, near the town of Canelli, remain the principal center of production for Moscato d’Asti (hence, the alternate name, Moscato di Canelli). Calcium-rich, chalky soils produce the most fragrant Moscato Bianco grapes, and an excellent exposure is essential to bring the fruit to perfect maturity.
Nivole is produced from a single vineyard at Torre de Cantini located in the commune of Canelli and situated on steep slopes of a gradient of approximately 35 degrees with an exposure facing south-southwest. Vines are planted to a density of 4,000 per hectare, with an average age of 25 years. Once harvested, the handpicked grapes are placed in pneumatic presses and once extracted, the must immediately lowered to a temperature of zero degrees centigrade (32 F) to prevent the onset of the alcoholic fermentation. The must is kept in this fashion until just before bottling, at which point the temperature is allowed to rise to 18 degrees centigrade (65 F) and the top of the tank is opened. A slow fermentation provoked by natural yeasts then ensues which is allowed to progress until the wine reaches an alcohol level of 5.5 percent and is then stopped by a sterile filtration which removes any remaining live yeasts. Residual sugar is adjusted to 11 percent by the addition of unfermented must of the moscato grape. The wine is then fined, filtered and immediately bottled. This technique preserves the characteristically aromatic, sweet fruit fragrance of the grape unique to Moscato Bianco.
Moscato d’Asti is one of the most sublime and delicate of all dessert wines, which should be consumed at its freshest and most youthful. Its very low level of alcohol makes it particularly light and soft on the palate, and especially gentle for consumption after dinner, when wines of greater alcoholic content have typically been consumed beforehand. The name “Nivole,” which means “clouds” in Piedmontese dialect, appropriately suggests the wine’s airy, elegant quality The fragrant, intensely fruity bouquet, offset by musky notes, leads to a refined sweetness supported by an excellent acid balance on the palate, with a suggestion of effervescence in the texture. The finish is clean and crisp, with a persistent flavor of grape and citrus characteristic of the variety.
Tasting Date: September 2011
Retail Price on Tasting Date: $