Thursday, February 18, 2010

Barbera, a wine for every occasion

Let's talk Barbera. Why? Because out of all the wine I have experienced, in the last four years of drinking and learning, no wine has proven to be more dynamic than Barbera. This northern Italian beauty performs well at the dinner table, the back yard BBQ, or on it's own. It's fruity, juicy and in some cases rich but for me it's the freshness and vibrant acidity that wins my heart. Whether you're eating pizza, mexican or fine dinning, you can't go wrong with Barbera. I've listed three of my recent favorites in order of price. Each one is currently available at retail and worth seeking out.

The daily dinner wine ($13 - $15)
  • 2007 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore Le Orme - Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti Superiore
    The nose shows red fruit, undergrowth and chalk. I could have mistaken it for Chinon from the nose alone. On the palate you find bright cherry fruit, citrus rind, and minerals. Medium refreshing red fruit finish. It's a streamlined barbera with juicy acidity that showed beautifully tonight. I will buy more.

Perfect for a plate of pasta ($16 - $22)
  • 2007 Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne - Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti
    A very pretty wine and a text book example of barbera. The nose is full of cherry, red licorice, cedar and undergrowth. The palate shows a very focused acidity with cherry fruit, clove and bitters. The finish is fresh with tongue curling acidity. Simple, unpretentious and just right for a plate of pasta with red sauce.

To impress your guests and yourself. ($40 - $50)
  • 2007 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d'Alba
    Dark crimson red color in the glass. The nose is like a basket of fresh picked, super ripe berries followed by holiday spices, new leather and a bit of oak. Some heat is present but does not detract from the experience. On the palate you find masses of dark fruit, sour licorice, pepper and bitters. Very balanced with the acidity showing just a bit through the rich fruit. The finish is long but fresh with blackberry fruit. Don't be afraid to pair this against hearty or spicy dishes.


A personal preference: Try pulling the cork on your bottle about an hour before you plan to drink it. Most reds benefit from the small amount of circulated air that makes it into the bottle. I like to pour a small glass for an early taste, bringing the level of the wine to the mid-shoulder of the bottle, and giving a little extra breathing room.

1 comment:

  1. As an addition to this post I must mention something that unnerves me. Tonight i had a bottle of Barbera that was so varietally incorrect that it upset me. Sad that some producers feel the need to over use oak and concentration to create wines they think we will enjoy. I love rich fruit and vanilla as much as the next human but there is much to be said for varietal character. Barbera should be fruity, but finessed. Slightly taught, focused with vibrancy. To take these wonderful traits away and cover it with a layer of impenetrable oak, is a crime.

    The wine I'm drinking and the cause of my dissatisfaction: 2007 Pico Maccario Barbera d'Asti Superiore Tre Roveri

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