Wine Review – Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont
Big bold Barolos. That’s what Piedmont is famous for. But for me, the little bro Barbera is where it’s at. I recently found a top-notch bargain Barbera in my local Morrisons and I wanted to share the joy with you.
A background to Barbera
Barbera (pronunciation: bar-bear-rah) is most definitely the “people’s wine” in Piedmont as it offers everyday quaff for, well, everyday quaffing as well as superior wines for superior occasions. I called it the little bro to Barolo, but actually the only thing that links them is their misty-rolling-hills terroir as Barbera grapes are unrelated to the Nebbiolo variety used to make Barolo. It’s definitely not a wine we see often in the UK, maybe because this variety has not been exploited on an international level. In Piedmont however, it’s very much a household name, and you’ll never have to look far to find a delicious drop of this stuff.
Perusing my local Morrisons wine aisle a few weeks back I was pleasantly surprised to find a Barbera d’Asti on offer and decided to give it a try.
Morrisons Specially Selected Barbera d’Asti 2015
This Barbera comes from the Asti DOCG area where, according to the Oxford Companion to Wine, the best vineyard spots are used to grow Barbera grapes (whereas in Alba, Nebbiolo vines call shotgun on the best sites). The producer is Araldica, a pretty large-scale cooperative in the heart of this wine-making region. They say their mission is to produce accessible wines to be enjoyed every day, and I’d say they’ve pretty much hit the mark with this one.
Barbera grapes are naturally high in acidity, and is already being grown in warmer climates such as Australia, but perhaps hasn’t reached its full potential on an international level yet. Barbera often benefits from oak ageing to add structure and soften the acidity of this variety. The DOCG rules for Barbera are perhaps not the strictest, which is why a range of Barberas can be found, displaying very different levels of depth and complexity.
Well, this Morrisons Barbera D’Asti is a real treat and a top bargain. And by bargain I don’t just mean it’s a cheapo bottle, but incredibly good value for money.
Having lived in Piedmont for a few years, I’m a bit (ok, very) biased towards this region’s wine offerings. But if this humble little purchase from a UK supermarket could bring back warm and fuzzy alpine memories for me, there must be something right about it. I’m not the only one who has enjoyed it – in 2015 this wine won a Bronze Award in the International Wine Challenge for its 2012 vintage.
In a line: A deep ruby red colour, it offers rich notes of plum, cherry and blackberry with herbal and black olive undernotes and a hint of spicy meatiness.
Morrisons recommend this wine with classic pizza and pasta dishes, which is fine, but it feels like a bit of a cop out for a wine pairing. I think this wine can stand up well to more autumnal flavours, like a hearty porcini risotto or meaty stew. For a classic and authentic taste of this region try it with roasted chestnuts for a subtle, simple and divine combination. I hope you’ll agree that sometimes it’s worth looking past the big, bold and famous to see what’s lurking in the shadows. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Have you tried this wine? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Let me know what you think.
Eating Up Italy: Food for Thought
I’m currently reading Matthew Fort’s book, Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa, which follows his journey through Italy, from south to north, on a culinary quest for the truth, culture and people behind Italian cuisine, in all its many varieties.
I’m really enjoying the book and the author’s way of writing, but what I want to focus on here is:
- how foreigners describe Italy
- why this is an important factor to consider when translating.
Let’s start with the first point and have a look at how Italy is seen from the outside with the help of Matthew Fort.
In contrast to many who write about Italy, Matthew Fort does not present himself as a great expert of the country, but rather as someone with limited knowledge of the language and the country in spite of his obvious interest in the place. (more…)