For dinner last night we made sweet Italian sausage in a tomato meat sauce with some rigatoni and garlic bread and opened this gem from Wine Library. This is by far the oldest, most unique, and on of the the best Barberas we’ve ever drank. It’s perfectly normal to question a 14 year old Barbera but Ian told us it was fantastic and he was right.
colonelgrape: 97. I have to give this the nod over the 09 Tenuta Olim we had last month as Barbera of the year so far. This is a spectacular wine. The first thing that stood out was the color was a combination of crushed brick and dirt, not much purple left. Earth, red fruit, and minerals on the nose. It was bigger than I expected on the palate, rich, decidedly full bodied, yet not overpowering. The acid was there but it had mellowed over time into a delightful yet background experience. The structure reminded me of a well aged Rhone or Bordeaux but the flavor was decidedly Piedmont. This was a unique Barbera experience. The best part is the price has bottomed out from $60 to $35 yet the wine still has life. I bought 6 more bottles for our cellar and UncleGrape picked up 3…if you find it (Ian has 4 left) and love Piedmont you need to experience this bottle.
MobyGrape: 95: Sweet merciful crap, this wine has forever changed the face of Mondays for me. Seriously, this wine is powerful. It was earthy and rustic (which is very much my thing right now) and looked like a glass full of brick-purple mud. It had a cherry flavor to it and I didn’t find it to be very acidic at all, or at least not annoyingly so (guess what isn’t my thing right now). Then again this wine could have convinced me that I was a goat, I would have believed it. I think this wine glamoured me, I looked into its eyes and I was helpless to resist. It’s sexy vampire wine. I’m thinking less Count Chocula and more Eric Northman.
colonelgrape: 96. This was an outstanding bottle. It had everything I look for in a great Barbera: a combination of red and black fruit, minerals, lots of acid, and low tannins. It had great structure as well, hitting all the right places on the palate at the right times. At $36 this is an expensive Barbera but I still say it’s a value bottle due to the quality. It’s hard to find any bottle of wine this good for $35…I’d highly recommend picking a few of these up. Top notch pairing for rustic Italian meals.
MobyGrape: 86. In my attempt to be more domestic I made some crazy Moroccan chicken skewer things (compliments of my more cooking-inclined friend at www.foodstorm.wordpress.com). The last time I tried to make something involving wooden skewers I was trying to impress the Colonel when we were dating and set the skewers on fire. I’m pretty sure that meal tasted like smoked shit, but he kindly ate it anyways and hey, he married me after all so let that be a beacon of hope for you ladies out there who aren’t exactly Suzy Homemaker. While my cooking skills have improved somewhat, there’s a reason I write on a wine blog, instead of a food blog. I didn’t think a white in our repertoire would stand up to the amount of stuff I put on that chicken so I boldly requested a red that was acidic, possibly a pinot noir or an italian that wasn’t a montepulciano. I could hear the Colonel laughing all the way to the basement but he still showed up with something I kind of asked for so I’m taking it as a win. This did pair well with the chicken, it had a tart kick to it but wasn’t too overbearing. Reminded me of cherries right off the bat. And after the meal the wine was still easy to drink, seemed to mellow out a bit. So try the skewers, and the wine. And maybe keep a fire extinguisher handy, just in case.
This 2010 Renato Ratti is actually one of the wines we had down in New Jersey but didn’t review. I found it at Wegman’s for $18 and I grabbed a bottle so we could try it again and Moby could actually taste it this time. Renato Ratti is one of UncleGrape’s favorite Barbera producer’s as we talked about in our last Barbera review so we were happy to try it again. We enjoyed this bottle with baked ziti, garlic bread, and our good friend BulbaGrape.
colonelgrape: 93. I really like this Barbera. It’s a serious, dark red color and on the nose you can tell it’s going to be acidic. On the palate it has flavors of ripe dark fruit, plum, some earthy spice and it’s all balanced with some serious acidity…it’s a firm wine but that’s how I like my Barbera’s, young and robust. I agree with Moby that if you’re looking to branch out into red wine and want something different than the usual cab/merlot (gross)/pinot noir get yourself a Barbera. BulbaGrape even liked it, well, said he could tolerate it….which is saying a lot because he’s not a wine guy. First step to oenophilia is tolerating it Bulba!
MobyGrape: 88. I could have sworn no one liked this wine the first time we had it. Thankfully the Colonel actually remembers these things however, because I would have been missing out if I never gave the Rat a second chance. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a solid wine that was just fine to drink before, during, and after a baked ziti dinner. It’s not overly anything, including expensive, so I’d bust it out for almost any kind of every day meal, or for someone who may kind of like wine but doesn’t know where to start branching out. We had a guest this evening who’s not heavy into wine and even he enjoyed a taste. I’m confident he would have had no problem telling us it tasted like garbage if he really didn’t like it.
Moby and I braved the Friday evening traffic to make it to NJ in time for a nice dinner at 3 Guys Pizzeria. It’s a local Italian favorite that serves fantastic pizza as well as a sit down restaurant. The best part is they allow you to BYOB and we took full advantage. UncleGrape appeared from the wine cellar with 3 Barberas to try and off we went.
We started with an assortment of appetizers and the 2011 Bovio Barbera d’Alba: clams casino, fried calamari with mild and hot marinara, broccoli rabe and sweet italian sausage, and garlic bread with mozzarella. That bottle didn’t last long and we were onto the 2010 Renato Ratti Barbera d’Alba. I had the chicken and veal parm while Moby had the gnocchis with vodka sauce. We finished off dinner with the 2009 Camp du Rouss Barbera d’Asti and headed home to get ready for a big day Saturday.
Moby was under the weather for most of the trip so I thought I’d rate and discuss the wines rather than rate them. My rankings for this dinner:
1: 2010 Renato Ratti Barbera d’Alba
2: 2009 Camp du Rouss Barbera d’Asti
3: 2011 Bovio Barbera d’Alba
All three wines were delicious but I think the clear winner was the Renato Ratti. It had the best balance of fruit and acidity and I’d most certainly recommend it. All 3 of these wines should be readily available for less than $25.
How awesome is BYOB? Sadly it’s not a big thing here in New England but they have it everywhere in NJ. Sometimes they charge a corkage fee per bottle but often times it’s still less than the markup on a traditional wine list. I can’t tell you how many times Moby and I have been out to see $25 bottles we love on wine lists for $75 and we simply can’t justify buying it. UncleGrape recommended calling ahead and seeing if local places will charge corkage fees and allow us to BYOB and I’m going to give it a try. Corkage fees may range anywhere from $10 to $25 per bottle…I guess we’ll find out.
First things first let’s talk about the grape. Barbera is grown throughout Italy however in my opinion the best wine comes from two prominent regions located in Piedmont: Asti and Alba. I’ve only tried Barbera from these regions however my Aunt and Uncle have sampled many others and find they are lacking. Barbera wines can vary greatly from a nice medium body, fruity flavor meant to be drank young to a more complex, intense wine that may need aging. They do have one thing in common though: dark ruby color, tannins, and strong acidity. I think the versatility and deliciousness of this grape just furthers the notion that Piedmont is King when it comes to Italian wine.
Top notch Barbera producers according to my Uncle: Vietti, Renato Ratti, Bovio, Coppo, Conterno, and Giacosa. Once I find some of these wines I will let you know what we thing!
On to the wine…Moby and I spent Sunday afternoon making homemade tomato sauce with hot Italian sausage. We whipped up some garlic bread and headed to the wine cellar to find the perfect match and came back with this 2010 Barbera d’Asti. For $18 this young Barbera was just what we needed.
colonelgrape: 87. A very delicious wine. A deep red color but it’s young and alive. Low tannins but quite acidic, nice and tart. I taste a nice bouquet of fruit, both red and dark….but I’d say raspberry is the most prominent. Very fresh tasting. I think this is one to drink young, it doesn’t have the tannins to be cellared but it doesn’t need it. Stands up without food nicely.
MobyGrape: 86. This was a tasty wine, wasn’t super dry or winey, and it certainly wasn’t crappy. There wasn’t a super strong flavor but was kind of acidic at the end (read: battery acid) but it gave it a little kick. This is a good wine to drink when you just feel like having a glass of red wine but don’t want to commit to something enormous. You don’t necessarily need a meal to go with it, but I think it would be up to the challenge of say, a nice meatball sub or some pasta (like we had with it).