Asti: where wine becomes an art form
If I say wine, a point of excellence in the Italian enological scene cannot be but the city of Asti. As a matter of fact, the hills of Langhe and Monferrato are full of single vineyards, particular soils, and varied weather conditions which give different fragrances and aromas to every bottle of wine produced.
Moreover, Asti can boast the widest medieval architectural patrimony of the region and, in the past, it was known as the city of hundred towers. But why?
Asti was built by the Romans with the name of Hasta during the 2nd century BC. The territory was then the seat of the Lombard Duchy of Asti and during the Middle Ages, it was an important center of trade and banking.
Ast (as it is called in Piedmontese dialect) has the largest low-medieval architectural patrimony of the region, in memory of what was once the most powerful town in Piedmont. A medieval palace is the first stop of our tour: Palazzo Catena. According to the tradition, in this palace lived Iginia d’Asti, the protagonist of the homonymous tragedy by the Piedmontese writer Silvio Pellico, and her ghost is said to still wander among the rooms of the palace. A palace haunted by ghosts… a good start, right?
Walking down Via XX Settembre we will find ourselves in front of Torre Guttuari which dates back to the first half of the 13th century. Here too there is a legend (we Piedmontese never miss it): in 1304 the Guelph party headed by the Solaro family, returned to Asti with the favors of the people, defeated, and drove out the Ghibelline consortium of De Castello. For revenge, the Guelphs demolished all the houses belonging to the Guttuari family (which was at the head of the Ghibelline party), including this tower of which only the base remained. It was not until the 19th century that the upper part and the embattled crowning were built.
The real star among the towers of Asti, however, is the Cometina Tower, also known as the Tower of San Bernardino, which stands out in the central Piazza Roma with its 38 meters. And with this height it earns the record of highest tower in the whole Piedmont. The Cometina Tower was also used for several centuries as a command post for the Palio race, a famous tradition of this town.
Leaving the square, turn left and enjoy the sumptuous Corso Alfieri, Asti’s shopping street, enriched by magnificent houses including Palazzo Mazzetti in baroque style, home of the art gallery, and of course Palazzo Alfieri (we are in his street, aren’t we?) where Vittorio Alfieri, the famous Piedmontese playwright, poet and writer, was born in 1749.
If you are not yet convinced that Asti is the city of excellence of the Italian wine scene, well, you should know that in the Asti area was born the first Piedmontese Wine Road. It is Strada Astesana, born in 1999, that crosses 52 municipalities of the province of Asti and of Langhe!
At this point, all you have to do is get into the Asti spirit and think about what to taste… and drink! There is no doubt that the aromatic and fragrant sparkling wine par excellence will be your choice: the Asti secco DOC Sarunè, with hints of citrus fruits and elderflowers. In the mouth, it is dry, smooth, and balanced, with a long and sapid finish. In short, not to be missed (you will thank me later). Just think that Sarunè’s grapes have been selected in excellent vineyards chosen for their exposure and soil type because they give the fruit particular aromaticity and acidity.
Asti Secco DOC comes to life from the expert hands of Cantina Toso, skilled producer of Moscato d’Asti for five generations, and from a scrupulous work in the vineyard which allowed the selection and harvesting by the hand of white Muscat grapes with the right level of ripeness, without adding sulfites and preservatives. Vineyards have been planted in order to get the right exposure to the sun, constant ventilation, and the right temperature range.
The name “Sarunè”, a Piedmontese term that indicates the one who built wagons and used them for the transportation of barrels, was chosen because it recalls the nickname of Pietro Toso, a second generation of the family still running the winery: Pietro du Sarun. This Moscato is excellent to accompany aperitifs and appetizers, I would suggest the smoothness of cheese such as Fior di Tiglio, enriched by the sweetness of lime honey, and the delicacy of a fine grain salami such as Bengalino, made of seasoned pork.
– Until next time, With Love!