Published on in History

From Middle Age to Savoia: history of Moscato Canelli

Moscato is a wine that transcends time: from the ancient Romans to the current day, its popular consumption was probably influenced by the Barbaric invasions.

The date when Moscato appeared in Piedmontese territory is difficult to determine. According to some scholars, the first written evidence of its presence in the area dates back to the early 14th century, while others say that it was cultivated even in the beginning of the 12th century [1].

Once, families were named according to the nature of the work they did. In the pages of Codex Astensis (the most important 14th century collection of medieval documents about the city of Asti), the “Muscati di Agliano” are named numerous times, making it plausible that the Moscato grape variety was present even earlier than the 12th century [2].

Greek origins

Moscato was well-known and highly appreciated well before that time, but its origins were principally Greek. A precious wine that was certainly costly, it was served only at the tables of the noble and rich.

Feudal lords, while inclined to show their wealth, did not love the idea of wasting their money. They began to plant Moscato in the Asti territory, especially in the zone around Canelli. Thus it began that Canelli and Moscato became an inseparable pair of names, today still recognized in the subzone called “Canelli,” a limited area that is the most traditional and historical zone for cultivating Moscato. It goes roughly from Calamandrana to San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, a hamlet of Alba.

The statues of Canelli

The classic image of these feudal lords as tyrannical, exploiting overlords is, historically, very disputable. In reality, after the expulsion of the Saracens and in wake of their widespread looting, the feudal lords gave maximum incentives, dealt very fairly, to recover and construct a thriving agriculture, the economic backbone of this era.

To understand how important the cultivation of Moscato vines was, simply take a look at the statues of Canelli dated to the 14th century. Those who cut, uprooted, or damaged the vines risked heavy fines and, in severe cases, the amputation of a “limb of his person” [3].

Il Moscato sotto i Savoia

emanuele filiberto di savoia

Moscato was not only planted in Canelli, but in other municipalities as well, although without reaching the desired results. Moscato found its ideal soil in Canelli. It is no coincidence that the first Sommelier of Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy and later Carlo Emanuele I chose the Moscato from Canelli.

It is good to remember that it was overall due to Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy in the mid-16th century that Moscato cultivation grew and, accordingly, increased its trade, at the time transported in wooded barrels.

This latter fact should lead us to reflect on why today, Moscato is unjustly relegated to immediate consumption, when in the past it was believed to be capable of withstanding longer amounts of time than what is generally thought today.


[1] G. Mainardi (a cura di), 1932-2007. 75 anni del Consorzio per la tutela dell’Asti, Asti, Consorzio per la tutela dell’Asti, pp. 8-9.

[2] G. Ricaldone, La vite e il vino nel consortile di Canelli, pag. 66.

[3] Gli Statuti di Canelli, Fabiano Editore, p.101.