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Beautiful Barbera from Asti, Italy

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Kelley O’Neill, Jason Wentworth, Chris Coronel
Guest taster: Johannes Reinhardt

Many wine enthusiasts are well aware of Italy’s two most widely planted grape varieties. Sangiovese is the primary grape of Chianti, and is increasingly bottled as a varietal wine. Montepulciano is also known to many in the form of brisk, fruity Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Less familiar, perhaps, is Italy’s third most planted grape, Barbera. There are about 70,000 acres of Barbera in Italy, and much of it is planted in Piedmont, the northwestern Italian region bordering France and Switzerland. Piedmont is best known for Barolo and Barbaresco, both made from Nebbiolo grapes. However, much more Barbera is produced.

Barbera typically offers a deep ruby color, a fruit forward profile, low tannin, and tangy acidity. The combination of fruit, low tannin, and acidity make Barbera a good accompaniment to varied foods. Many prefer the juicy, food friendly flavors of Barbera to the tannic austerity of the more famous wines made from Nebbiolo.

Much Barbera is labeled either Barbera d’Alba or Barbera d’Asti. Barbera d’Alba is produced in roughly the same zone from which Barolo and Barbaresco hail. Barbera d’Asti is produced from vineyards located northeast of Alba. Some consider these to be the best Barberas. (In Asti, Barbera is planted in prime vineyard sites; in the Alba zone, the best sites are monopolized by Nebbiolo.)

The Northside Wine & Spirits staff recently blind tasted 17 Piedmontese Barberas. The wines were generally well made and enjoyable to taste. Some showed the influence of ageing in new oak barrels. In the best examples, the oak added complexity and structure.

A 300-member cooperative produced the tasting’s first-place wine. The

Araldica 2007 Barbera d’Asti, Il Cascinone “Rive”
($23.99 per bottle) has a gorgeous nose with hints of cherry, blackberry, and cocoa. The flavors are very well balanced, and the long, succulent finish adds an attractive hint of vanilla.

This wine will shine with pasta and red sauce, and would be a treat with ragù Bolognese. Test the versatility of Barbera and try it with grilled fish, ham, or even spicy Asian dishes, and you’ll discover why so many “foodies” love Barbera!

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