Everyone knows Tuscany and her Chianti. The Veneto has some of the most popular wines drunk in America, Pinot Grigio, Soave, Prosecco. Puglia is the largest bulk producer in Italy with many of her wines becoming more and more popular such as Primitivo. Even Abruzzo is gaining some traction with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It seems, however, that Piedmont gets short shrift in this area.
Piedmont, whose name literally means foot of the mountains, is at the north-west corner of the country. Amongst serious wine enthusiasts, Piedmont has long been known for some of the greatest wines Italy has to offer, Barolo and Barbaresco. Both wines are known for their power and ageability, but are in the upper echelons when it comes to price.
Admittedly, there are very expensive Chiantis but there are also many very good ones under fifteen dollars. It is a challenge to find a drinkable Barolo for less than fifty dollars and many are sold in the many hundreds of dollars range. What about wine for the rest of us without the winning Billion Dollar Bracket? It is for us the following wines exist.
Enter Barbera. Not Barbara, no Jeannie here. Barbera was once known as ‘the people’s wine’ due to its versatility and abundant production as it is the third most planted dark skin varietal in Italy. It can produce a dazzling variety of wines from light, bright wines brimming with wonderful acidity and cherry notes to examples with more dark fruit characteristics and oak that require cellaring. The best part is that it is easy to differentiate between the styles. Under $16 no oak and lighter, over $16 bigger wine with oak. Simple!
The reason there is so much Barbera is that all of the best spots in Piedmont are covered with Nebbiolo, the grape used in the production of Barolo and Barbaresco. The lesser sights are planted to Barbera and Dolcetto whose name means little sweet one. While the lighter style Barbera and Dolcetto are my go tos for lighter tomato based dishes, the whites from Piedmont shine with seafood. The high acidity and delicacy help wash away the grease of frito misto without overpowering the delicate interiors.
Find these wines highlighted in our new “Tour of Wine” section. With them you will find recipes to pair perfectly with each.
Paitin Elisa Roero Arneis, The nose shows bakery-like aromas of sweet almond and springtime honeysuckle. This is a full-bodied version of Arneis, probably because of extended sur lie aging, yet it’s a fine-boned wine. The palate shows white – yellow fruits in an almost tropical fashion…all the beautiful qualities you look for in a perfect white wine. Only 16.99!!!
Paolo Manzone Dolcetto d’Alba, The color is an intense ruby red, with purple reflections. The nose has a rich floral scent that is reminiscent of berries, which carries through to the palate. Just 16.99!!!
Cascina Ballarin, Cino, Langhe Rosso, Made from the three classic grapes of Piedmont: the noble, elegant, and penetrating Nebbiolo, the powerful Barbera, and the fruity Dolcetto. The wine comes from favored vineyards and old vines (up to 40 years old). The result is an amazing bargain: lush fruit made in a clean, snappy style that refreshes without sacrificing nuance and complexity.
~ Randy Freeland ~
Prices good through 5/13/15.