Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Diary 63: Cadgal, revived Moscato specialist

It is always a pleasure to visit new producers. I have commented on Emanuele Gambino before, a winery only set up in 2016. He makes a very good dry, still Moscato, a rarity in the Asti area. I visited his winery and boutique hotel outside Costigliole d’Asti in May 2024. This allowed me also to taste his Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, the first vintage of Nebbiolo and the latest releases of his Barbera wines. They are all worth seeking out. Revived Moscato specialist is a tag that can be used of both Gambino and Cadgal.

Not far away, I also visited Cadgal, recently revived and expanded by Alessandro Varagnolo, which also has a hospitality business. Cadgal specialises in bottle-aged Moscato d’Asti, perhaps an even rarer category, though one I have touched on before. The common perception is that Moscato d’Asti is a wine to be enjoyed young. Most of the wine is made to display the primary flavours of peach, grape and orange blossom. Nobody buys bottles to age as you would a top-quality Chardonnay or Nebbiolo. But people are missing a trick.

Cadgal, as noted, was refounded recently. It now combines the vineyards of Tenuta La Cova in Calamandrana and those of Tenuta Valdivilla outside Santo Stefano Belbo. The latter is one of the key towns of the Moscato area and wine from here can now be bottled as the new Canelli DOCG. It was just a subzone of Asti DOCG but now stands proudly on its own. Wisely, the new regulations allow you to add the name Moscato to the label, a help to consumers. So do look our for Canelli DOCG or Canelli Moscato DOCG. The belief that Moscato can age is reinforced by Canelli DOCG regulations which has a Riserva category. This requires a minimum of 30 months of ageing of which 20 must be in the bottle.

The Cadgal wines

Alessandro has reviewed the wines he inherited. In the past, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay were blended but he bottles them as single varietal wines, aged only in stainless steel. Of course, being in Barbera country, there is also a Barbera d’Asti, fruity, fresh and with a real depth of plum and violet notes. However, Moscato rules here. It comes in four versions all fully or semi-sparkling:

  • Asti Spumante
  • Lumine (Moscato d’Asti)
  • two single-vineyard wines, Sant’Ilario (now Canelli DOCG) and Vigne Vecchia (Moscato d’Asti, while later releases will be Canelli DOCG).

The latter two are versions of the same wine, made with grapes from 70-year-old vines in Casinasco near Canelli. The difference is in the ageing, both being distinctive. Sant’Ilario is aged for a year on lees before being bottled. Meanwhile, the Vigne Vecchia is aged in bottle for fully five years in perfect conditions. The bottles are put in wooden cases filled with sand, an old-fashioned but effective way of maintaining a steady 15º C temperature. This creates a Moscato probably quite unlike one you have ever tasted before. Aged Moscato d’Asti does lose some of its primary aromas but adds layers of creaminess, dried fruit and lavender which defy expectations. As with other sweet wines, the perception of sweetness also reduces with age and the bubbles, semi-sparkling to start with, remain just a hint. The wine becomes more versatile in terms of pairing with starters, white meat and much more. It is not just a wine to drink on its own or with dessert.

This part of the province of Asti is genuinely the heartland of Moscato. It is great to see two young producers doing innovative things with this much-undervalued grape variety. Revived Moscato specialists in the cradle of Moscato production.

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