Do you know what the smallest DOCG in Italy is? It is called Moscato di Scanzo or just Scanzo. The area comprises 31 hectares in the northern Italian region of Lombardy.
When we think of Moscato, Asti or Pantelleria usually come up, but Moscato di Scanzo is a different story. It is a red-skin grape, indigenous to the tiny commune of Scanzorosciate, few kilometres from Bergamo. It is believed to be a progeny of Moscato Bianco and often confused with Aleatico to which it might be related.
The grape seems to be brought to Lombardy by the Roman colonists and first mentioned in a 1340 document. Moscato di Scanzo enjoyed great notoriety during the Middle Ages and later on. Catherine the Great of Russia was a big fan of this wine first presented to her by a famous Italian architect, Giacomo Quarenghi, a native of Bergamo, responsible for the main St. Petersburg attraction – the Winter Palace. The wines were also quoted on the London exchange with one barrel beating the price of one gold guinea.
The modern history of the wine began when Moscato di Scanzo grape was included in the national catalog of vine varieties in 1981. It received DOC status in 2002 and, in 2009, promoted to the DOCG. At the moment, there are 39 producers in the area, 33 of them adhering to the Consortium. The annual production is minuscule 60.000 bottles.
Moscato di Scanzo is a highly aromatic grape with very thin skin, which makes it extremely susceptible to grey rot. The grapes to produce the DOCG wine are usually harvested at the end of September – beginning of October and then go through the appassimento process for 21 days, at least. The bunches are layered on special mats or racks in well-ventilated storage rooms and regularly monitored to prevent mold formation. After the shriveling process, the sugar level of the grapes should reach a minimum of 280 gr. In the end, the raisined grapes are pressed to obtain very little juice, less than 30% of the weight of the initial grapes.
After the fermentation, the wine is going through the affinamento for at least two years, according to the legislation. Being aromatic, Moscato di Scanzo is not quite oak-friendly and prefers aging in neutral vessels. The final wine is fragrant and elegant with refreshing acidity despite 50-100 gr/l of residual sugar. It demonstrates bright ruby colour and exuberant aromas of black berries, spicy red cherry, forest floor, and a hint of sage and sweet baking spices.
Moscato di Scanzo is a perfect pairing with blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, various fruit tarts, or chocolate fondant.