Archive for the ‘pairing’ Category


Veal tongue and foie gras mille-feuille with Port gelatin

March 9, 2010

Last night’s gala dinner was catered by Il Cascinale Nuovo (Isola d’Asti) at the Villa Basinetto.

Cascinale Nuovo

Veal tongue and foie gras mille-feuille with Port gelatin.

The amuse-bouche.

Stand-out wines at my table were 2007 Barbera d’Asti by Dario Cocito and a gorgeous Moscato d’Asti by Caudrina.

—Do Bianchi


Worcester Sauce: Lazing on Sunday afternoon… in Asti

March 7, 2010

This morning (7 March) I had a painfully early start to catch a 7am flight from Stansted to Turin. But there are some things that are worth getting up early for…

I am in Asti this week to attend the Barbera Meeting 2010. Such an early arrival meant that I had a few hours to kill before meeting up with my fellow bloggers this evening. I was told that there was probably only one restaurant open in Asti today, so off I went to Ristorante Aldo di Castiglione in Via Giobert.

Aldo is hidden behind an innocuous door that also leads to several private apartments. One has to press the buzzer to obtain entry – quite daunting on a cold Sunday afternoon in Asti! A brusque “si?” preceded a more welcoming entry into the restaurant.

I was seated by the delightful Franca Masoero, who with her husband and sister (or was it daughter?) runs this quintessentially Italian restaurant. Did I want antipasti? No thank you. A warm starter, then? Yes please. Signora Masoero brought me a plate of gnocchi with a salso di pomodoro e basilico. The gnocchi was beautifully soft, just the way I like it, and the sauce wonderfully fresh – especially for March.

My primo piatto was guancio di vitello in a red wine sauce (Barbera, I think), accompanied with mashed potato. It was tender, not too fatty, really tasty and as simple and unadorned as the restaurant’s bare brickwork and unostentatious lighting. With this I drank a half-bottle of 2008 Coppo Barbera d’Asti l’Avvocato – supple, medium-bodied, bright Barbera fruit and a tickle of VA, but to criticise it for that would be to miss the point. It was perfect with the vitello and surprisingly good with the dessert of bonèt, a Piemontese speciality of eggs, sugar, chocolate and amaretti. It was not all that sweet so was an effective abbinamento with the Barbera.

An espresso braced me for the walk back to the hotel. Offers of grappa or more wine were declined in the knowledge that Tom Hyland had organised a pizza evening for us tonight!

—Worcester Sauce


Barbera wines are like old friends

March 5, 2010

Photo by Asti photographer Giulio Morra.

Here’s what official Barbera blogger Brunellos Have More Fun had to say about her upcoming trip to Barbera Meeting 2010 and her long-standing love affair with Barbera:

To me, barbera wines are like old friends. The ones that you can be around 24 hours a day and never tire of. The ones, whom after 2 years of not seeing each other, conversations can flow forth effortlessly as if no time had passed at all. Without getting into acidity and tannins, fruit and body…I hope my simile makes some kind of sense. Barbera makes fun wine, drinkable wine, food friendly wine. Although by this time next week, I am sure I will have a whole lot more to say about it than that.

Click here to read the entire post…


Barbera, and…?

March 3, 2010

Back when I first started writing about wine, mumble years ago, I – like almost every newly-minted writer, wrote with the absolute conviction that the generalizations I had learned were true.

Like anyone who’s stepped off home plate in their own personal wine quest, it didn’t take long to realize how wrong I was. It’s one of the many, many reasons I can’t really bear to read my oldest work. It’s not just that it’s wrong, it’s that it’s so breathlessly naïve. Oh, well. Nothing to do about it now except to continue learning how much I didn’t, and don’t, know.

One of those iron-clad truisms of yore was about barbera: red-fruited, high-acid, great with tomato sauce. It had to be true, didn’t it? It certainly was the conventional wisdom, mindlessly repeated in just about every wine text of the time. It probably still is. And I suppose that I’d had barbera that tasted like that on which I could base this enthusiastically-expressed opinion. But even then, in the dark mists of mumble years ago, it was only barely true. Because the fetish for concentrated, lavishly wooded, and (it must be said) internationalized barbera was in already full swing.

Hey…why the sudden interest in barbera? It’s not – objects the imaginary interlocutor that I find so valuable when constructing an argument – like I often write essays on specific grapes or wines. OK, OK, my imaginary friend’s caught me. I’m going on a junket. To Asti. To taste a bunch of barbera. To learn where I have and haven’t been wrong all these years. And to increase my depleted store of barbera-related puns. (Is it bad of me that this latter reason fills me with as much joy as those that precede it?) Anyway, fear not: the barbera-infused coverage that follows – and there will be some – will be properly disclaimed, as promised. And I will, both on oenoLog and in longer form here, eventually report on every single wine I taste…good, bad, or indifferent.)

Anyway, back to the aforementioned fetish. It was probably a trend that made a lot more sense on the ground in Italy, where there was almost certainly a veritable ocean of overcropped, underripe barbera against which to rebel. It is, after all, one of the most widely-planted red grapes in Italy. (Did you know that, imaginary guy? I didn’t.) As with anything that everyone plants…merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, I’m looking at all of you with an eye full of jaundice…a lot of it is going to be bad, or at best indifferent. So the inclination to head in the opposite direction with the grape was certainly understandable. Still is.

The thing was, the wines made a little less sense on the American side of the pond. Fruitier wines? We’ve already got ‘em. Bigger wines? Oakier wines? Check, check. Wines that taste like they come from the New World? Hey, that’s us! More expensive wines in fancier packages? It’s like a birthright.

Also, there was this. We haven’t had much success with Italian grapes in this country, which is an oddity considering how much the historical California wine culture owes to Italian immigrants and their descendants. But the one grape that did seem to work here was…you guessed it, imaginary respondent…barbera. I recall, with great fondness, a Renwood Barbera from the Linsteadt Vineyard that was full-bodied, incredibly appealing, and (this is the important part) easily outdid the Italian taste-alikes at their own game. That producer has gone to industrial hell, and I’ve lost track of the vineyard (it continues to exist, though not in any wines I see on my local shelves), but I still remember the wine. There are current alternatives, some from the same region in the Sierra Foothills, that are almost as good, and I drink them with marginal regularity.

As for the mostly-Piedmontese variations on the same theme? For one thing, they didn’t wear their oak well. Part of it was the acidity, which couldn’t really be tamed; one of the keys to the international style is low acidity, and without de-acidifying this just wasn’t going to be possible in barbera’s historic soils. High acid and overt new wood rarely meld well, to my palate. And for another, the effort to concentrate the fruit was tangible; one could taste the purposeful striving, and not always in a good way.

And so, I mostly gave up on the grape. Oh, there’s be an occasional bottle or taste along the way. But if it wasn’t my Platonic ideal of a marinara wine, and the modernized alternatives weren’t the kind of wine I like to drink (which they rarely were), what was the point? I moved on to other enthusiasms, and even occasional forays back into the Piedmont for something other than nebbiolo yielded more freisa than they did barbera. Dolcetto I never abandoned, but barbera was off my radar.

Even after a 2007 visit to the region, I didn’t really change my view. Looking back, I’m not sure why. I tasted some spectacular barbera, at Brovia and elsewhere, that demonstrated a sophistication and confidence with the grape that hadn’t been there before. The oak (when present) was integrated, the fruit rounder but not overworked, the fundamental acidity unquestionably present but not dominant. I can only blame the ever-expanding world of options for my failure to start traipsing through those cherried fields again.

And now, there’s an opportunity to make up for that lack, and to fill the gaps in my education. To taste not just those barbera deemed fit for the U.S. market, nor just those pre-selected for my traditionalist enthusiasms, but to really dig into the modern state of the grape. It should be fun.



A Barbera a day…

February 25, 2010

Last Friday, I joked with one of my counterparts at the PR firm handling the Barbera Meeting 2010 tastings. She had to leave the office because she wasn’t feeling well, she said. I replied (all of our communication by email), “Go home and have some chicken soup. That’s what we call ‘Jewish penicillin.'”

By Monday morning, she wrote me, “I tried it and it works! It even worked for my baby girl! She had a cold, too…”

Well, by Wednesday morning it was my turn. I had traveled Tuesday in the snow storm that covered Texas with snow and when she heard me on the phone for our early-morning (Texas time) phone conference, she said, “You sound like you have a cold. You need some chicken soup!” I could hear her and her colleagues grinning over the phone. I was pretty beat after driving nearly 8 hours in bad weather the day before and then a 7 a.m. conference call!

So, last night, when it was time to decide what to pair with Tracie P’s quesadillas, stuffed with Colby-Jack cheese, roast chicken and spinach sautéed in garlic, I reached for a bottle of Cascina Bruni 2008 Barbera d’Asti Villa Lisa. The wine was the PERFECT pairing for the quesadillas, with bright, bright acidity, nice berry and cherry fruit, barely any tannin, and low alcohol. When you drink a wine like that — a wine that isn’t afraid to be what it is, a wine that just wants to be a great food wine — I don’t know how to describe it: it just makes you feel good.

Woke up this morning, and although the problems of the world haven’t yet been solved, my cold is gone.

And the best part? It retails for under $15… A classic Barbera, a great food fine, and an awesome price… I highly recommend it…

—Do Bianchi


Craig Camp on Barbera: “Few wines match so well with food.”

February 24, 2010

wine camp

Here’s what one of our favorite wine bloggers, Craig Camp (above), had to say about Barbera in a post published back in 2006 (man, Craig is always ahead of the curve!):

    Few wines match so well with food. The fruit and structure of Barbera in all styles lends itself remarkably well to a wide range of dishes. The fruity stainless steel wines are one of the best choices you can make for classic Italian-American cuisine and the oaky bottlings take on grilled and roasted meats in ways most merlot wines can only dream of all the while offering the same lush fruit that has made that variety so popular. Wine lovers outside of Italy are always in the hunt for search for the perfect pizza wine — a concept Italians don’t understand. There are few better matches for pizza than a zesty Barbera.

Click here to read the entire post, “No Respect: Barbera Bursting Out.”

Awesome post, Craig!