Tag Archives: Barbera

Tomatoes and Barbera

Tomatoes are such a versatile fruit of the vine. It’s the tomatoes high acidity that really sets it apart from the rest of the vegetable crops. With tomatoes, I like reds with equal parts acidity, fruit and tannins. Those favored reds to have with tomatoes all have their roots in Italy, Barbera, Chianti and Sangiovese.  barbera
Chianti is a blended wine with a preponderance of Sangiovese. Sangiovese is Italy’s most widely planted grape with vineyards in Tuscany being the most heavily planted to the grape. There you can drink Chianti, Brunello, Vino Nobile and Super Tuscans, all made with Sangiovese.
But with tomatoes, I reach more towards Barbera. Second only to Sangiovese in production and versatility, it’s naturally high in acidity so it does very well in warmer climates, like Italy, California and Eastern Washington.
Barbera reaches its zenith in the Piedmont region where you can find labels stating Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba. It also does best on the well-drained, limestone slopes of Asti and Alba in northwestern Italy.
Even the warmer sites in Eastern Washington, Sonoma Valley and the Sierra Foothills produce some fantastic Barberas. This acidity complements the fruit flavors and the wines are ripe, bright and tangy, a perfect match for Ann Vogel’s Tomato Tarte Tatin.
Barbera is a dark-skinned variety found in several Italian wine regions, including its native Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Puglia, Campania, Sicily and Sardinia. Barbera can be both on its own or blended, usually with that other Piedmonte grape, Nebbiolo.
Like so many Italian grape varieties, Barbera has an interesting history. It was recorded in the cathedral of Casale Monferrato archives where leased vineyards were planted to Barbera between 1246 and 1277. Barbera was well regarded for its “rustic yet generous” character.
It was a favorite among army officers, who considered the wine a “sincere companion” and helped them maintain their courage in battle. Also cited in a Società Agraria di Torino document in 1798, there you can read the first definitive list of Piedmont’s grape varieties.
This varietal’s bright and cooperative nature has made it equally popular in California. Barbera is the sixth most planted red grape in California, but is rarely bottled alone. Loved for its color and acidity, Barbera is usually blended to tame other varietals into better balance.
So where to start with Barbera? I would highly recommend Italy’s La Spinetta Barbera d’Alba or d’Asti, Prunotto Barbera d’Asti Pomorosso, Sandrone Barbera d’Alba, Seghesio Barbera d’Alba, Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne or d’Asti, or Voerzio Barbera d’Alba.
Early California planters and producers of Barbera were Martini, Seghesio, and Sebastiani. Sebastiani was winning awards for his Barbera in the 1930s.
But in this century, I’d choose a Montevina Amador Barbera, Sobon Estate Amador Barbera, Seghesio Alexander Valley Barbera, Shenandoah Sierra Foothills Reserve Barbera or Renwood Amador County Barbera.
Cavu Cellars Barbera Rose, Facelli, Maryhill Winery, Stomani Cellars, and Wind Rose Cellars all produce Barberas from Washington grown grapes.
Bon Apetito!

What we’re drinking: Barbera, a lot of it

Mary writes:

In northwestern Italy’s Piedmonte region, Barbera is the everyday wine for family dinners. Barbera is the second-most planted red grape in Italy. It’s planted in other parts of the world also, most notably California where Italian immigrants settled, but other parts of the globe too.

Inside Piedmonte, Alba, Asti and Monferrato are the DOC or DOCG regions for Barbera. In the DOCG region of Alba, for some of the best Barolos, the Nebbiolo grape gets the best vineyard sites. Barbera is relegated to the leftover vineyards. This was the natural order for Piedmonte, where Barolo is king with wines that are aged and sold for big bucks — Barbera is the family-friendly dinner wine.

I first tasted the memorable Cigliuiti Barbera d’Alba one hot Northwest summer day many years ago. It became my summer wine, the wine to drink with the tomatoes fresh from the garden. Barbera is gorgeous with juicy red fruits and herbs and natural, lively acidity even in hot climates. For me, it was synergistic with tomatoes. Tomatoes dressed with a little chopped onion, balsamic vinegar, a shave of Fontina and a drizzle of olive oil is my choice for an accompaniment to the wine.

My great affection for Barbera led to Barbera being introduced to the “Blind Wine Group” I formed. The group recently blind tasted eight Barberas, seven from Alba and one from Washington.

Here’s how it works: Everyone brings a bottle of Barbera and a plate of appetizers. The host brings two of the same Barbera. Bottles are brown bagged, numbered and served. Tasters are looking for the duplicate wine.

The structure of Barbera comes from its crisp acidity, which keeps it fresh and cuts through rich fatty foods. If the acidity is out of whack, Barbera can be harsh. But given a tomato, the wine is perfect.

Wines we tasted are as follows:

  • Michele Reverditto Barbera d’Alba 2010: very balanced, aromatic with cherry, cedar; medium-full bodied, tart cherry flavors with a pleasant bitter herb finish.
  • Bricco del Tempo d’Alba 2010 DOC: Lots of fruit on the nose, great taste of bright red fruits with an earthy finish.
  • Viberti Bricco Airolia d’Alba Superiore 2010: Bricco is Italian for hilltop where this vineyard is situated. Grape and almond aromas with grapey and cherry flavors that finish long and smoothly.
  • Maccario DOCG Barbera d’Alba 2011: Dark ruby color with a red fruit based aroma with a floral hint. It’s smooth with black cherry and vanilla flavors. 13.5 percent alcohol.
  • Renato Ratti DOCG Barbera d’Alba 2010: Rich in body and in color, warm and robust, pleasantly tart.  Spent six months in French oak barriques which concentrates the flavors.
  • Podere Ruggere Corsini Barbera d’Alba 2010: Juicy, rich, purple red with bright plum flavors in a mouth-filling style. Very lively acidity.
  • Maryhill Columbia Valley Barbera 2008: Vanilla and spice balance the tart cherry, red berry fruit flavors. Full bodied with a smooth finish.
  • Maccario DOCG Barbera d’Alba 2011: Aromas of cherries and violets, velvety mouthfeel, concentrated bright cherry and blueberry flavors.

The favorite of the tasters was the second bottle of Maccario with the Reverditto a point behind. Four of us picked the duplicate wines, including yours truly.

Other cheeses to try with fresh tomatoes and a glass of Barbera would be Cambozola made from cow’s milk that’s a blue veined soft-ripened triple cream cheese.

Gorgonzola is the classic Italian blue veined cheese, made from unskimmed cow’s milk. The crumbly texture and tang sing with the fresh tomatoes.

Tonight’s dinner: Grilled pizza and Washington Barbera

We love summer, not just because we love the sun but also because the dry weather and lingering daylight gives us an excuse to use the grill — not that we technically need an excuse.

Ann Vogel’s pizza on the barbecue is a great idea — you get to have a family favorite (or at least a favorite for our families) but your house, already hot from the day’s sun, doesn’t turn into a sauna because of the oven. And you have minimal clean up.

Plus, there’s just something about the flavor that the grill imparts on food that gives it a little something extra.

So what wine do you want to drink with your grilled pizza? Think about the toppings you plan to use. Are you thinking pepperoni, sausage, fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes? And then there’s the smoky flavor from the grill to consider.

If we made this pizza, we’d choose a Barbera to wash it down. There is not a huge selection to choose from of this Italian grape in our county, but we know you can find it because we recently participated in an informal blind tasting of seven Barbera wines.
Each attendee to the tasting was responsible for bringing a Barbera.

Brynn brought a 2008 Barbera Classic from Maryhill Winery and a Barbera d’Asti. We wanted to taste the Maryhill because we wanted to see how a Barbera made in Washington stood up to the Italian competition.

After pairing it with pepper-crusted dry salami and a fresh tomatoes and basil penne pasta, we knew this is the wine we’d choose for grilled pizza.

It was interesting to hear people’s opinions about this wine while tasting it without knowing where it was from. At least one person noted Asian spices and was relatively confident the wine was from Italy, but made in a “New World” style. Meaning the wine was fruit-forward and potentially had some winemaker manipulation at play to produce its fruity character.

It became one of Brynn’s favorites of the day because of its hints of vanilla on the finish and raspberry notes through the middle. It also had a slight smokiness, which would pair well with the grill flavors.

This might be hard to find in Kitsap, but if you’re interested the Port Orchard Fred Meyer has a few bottles. Wine steward Diana Walker said the wine was ordered by accident, so act quick and pick up a bottle. It is also available from the winery. It retails at just under $18.

Or you could pick up a few bottles with a visit to the winery  in Goldendale. With a natural amphitheater on its property and spectacular views of the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood, a trip to the winery would make a fun weekend getaway. The winery has a summer concert series. Upcoming shows include Daryl Hall and John Oates Aug. 17 and Willie Nelson Aug. 24. Visit Maryhill’s website for more information.