Asti Spumante has been made since the 1850's. Although total vineyard acreage has gone down since 1960, sparkling wines from Asti have remained popular and there are 80 million bottles produced per year. Asti became a DOCG in 1993.
The region covers 10,000 hectares, with 53 communes in Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria. 300 hectares of steep hillsides are considered the best and would like a better designation. 18 large houses control 80% of production, and are centered around the town of Canelli. 650,000 hectolitres or 17 million gallons per year make it the largest of Italy's DOC. There are 6800 growers.
Asti is a sweet, fully sparkling wine with 7-9.5% alcohol. It is made from Moscato Blanco (Muscat á Petits grains) grown between in dense vineyards between 200-500 meters on steep hills. It must have a minimum alcohol of 9%. Most is made in bulk by large vermouth factories. It has less aroma because of the bubbles and alcohol. The wines are peachy and orangey and should be drunk quickly; otherwise wines develop an unpleasant geranium smell. The best and ripest grapes are almost always used for Moscato d'Asti, a different wine.
Asti is made using a shortened Cuve Close method to preserve fruitiness. Moscato does not age well with yeast anyways. It is pressed with a maximum extraction of 75%, so it takes one kilo of grapes to produce one bottle. Fined and filtered, then brought down to zero degrees. It stays in this state until an order comes in, then quickly fermented in stainless steel tanks and released. Fermentation is stopped when alcohol reaches a good level, and bottled with residual sugar. Wines can be as young as more month after harvest, but are never more than a year old. Wines that are one month old have the last year blended in for consistency. Time in a bottle and sunlight destroy the freshness quickly.
Moscato d'Asti shares the same borders and is also made from Moscato, but it is slightly petillant with a maximum of 1.7 bars of pressure. It can be sealed with a normal still wine cork. Moscato d'Asti is only 4.5-6.5% alcohol and is often classified in the white wine section in stores. The highest quality are from small producers.