Archive for the ‘Piedmont’ Category

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La Stampa: “The bloggers have landed!”

March 6, 2010

Above: The Torino local edition of La Stampa published this article today on Barbera Meeting 2010 and the novelty of having a group of American bloggers present. Click image for a PDF of the article or become a fan of Barbera Meeting on Facebook for the whole text.

There was an inherent dichotomy drawn in the opening line of an article published today in the Turin edition of the Italian national daily La Stampa. “The blogger-tasters have landed,” read the title, “and live wine scoring has arrived.”

Gone are the “excellent palates” and their insiders-only tastings, wrote journalist Fiammetta Mussio in the opening line: “Goodbye to tastings attended by excellent palates and ‘trials’ behind closed-doors. The bloggers have arrived in the Barbera vineyards.” It would seem that the latter, according to Ms. Mussio, precludes the former.

The department of shameless self-promotion informs me that I should be thrilled to hear myself called “una delle ‘penne’ vinicole più pungenti d’America” (“one of the most pungent wine ‘plumes’ in America”). I wonder if that means I stink. Or perhaps it means that my writing stings its subject matter. Either way I’m flattered.

As hard as it was to say goodbye to Tracie P (not a month since our return from our honeymoon and just a few weeks after our move into our new home together), I am truly excited to think that the trip and adventure that lie ahead of our group of American wine bloggers are being treated a something of a novelty in Italy. The organizers of the event and our sponsors have told me that this is the first time American wine bloggers have been invited to an event of this size and importance in this capacity: we’ll be blogging the tasting is quasi-real-time.

Writing from the Austin airport… more once I arrive in Europe…

—Do Bianchi

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“The grooviest bunch of wine professionals”

March 6, 2010

That’s Jaynes Gastropub in the photo, Jon and Jayne, who run one of our favorite places to dine in sunny San Diego, California, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the border with ol’ Mexico.

2009 was not an easy one for anyone working in the restaurant business but as Jaynes Gastropub puts it, things are looking up: “The economy is off life support, the ice machine is working like a champ, our type 47 full liquor license looks like its nearly a go, the new menu changes/wine list adds are batting 1000 and I get invited to spend a week in Piedmont Italy along with one of the grooviest bunch of wine professionals I’ve ever seen.”

Jaynes Gastropub is not just a restaurant but it’s also a great food and wine blog and it’s going to bring an American restaurateur’s perspective to our groovy band of American bloggers… and between Jaynes and Do Bianchi, all we need is a good drummer and we’ll have ourselves a tight little band… 😉

Si parla “Barbera” anche a San Diego!

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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…

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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.

—oenologic

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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!

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Tom’s Decanter article on Barbera

February 22, 2010

Barbera Meeting blog contributor Tom’s Wine Line graciously has graciously shared a PDF of his article on Barbera, published in the current issue of Decanter magazine (special Italy supplement).

Here’s an excerpt:

    Relatively low tannins and high acidity distinguish Barbera, giving its sour cherry/berry fruit a bracing raciness, and making it super food-friendly. Carlo Revello, winemaker at the family firm, explains his affection for the variety: ‘Maybe it’s a generational thing. My father used to drink Dolcetto every day. My brothers and I prefer the fruitiness and acidity of Barbera.’

Click here to download the entire article.

Buona lettura!

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An ancient map of Monferrato, land of Barbera

February 18, 2010

Click image for full-size (courtesy Oulx).