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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

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Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Although the outside temperature has been sizzling this past week, signs of fall are starting to creep in. The leaves in the backyard have begun to fade to yellow and orange and there is the ever-present understanding that winter will come.

Some may experience melancholy around this time of year, which makes sense; the warm weather and green yards are set to slumber for another season while winter approaches over the horizon. I have a solution to help you squeeze as many drops out of summer as possible and it is a wonderful grape called Barbera.

Barbera is both a region in Italy and also a grape varietal grown in several parts of the world. In Italy, Barbera is arguably most famous in the Piedmont region where it has several DOC designations and at least one DOCG designation. The Barbera grape is the third most-grown grape in Italy under Sangiovese and Montepulciano. What makes Barbera so special and why is it worth trying?

One of the biggest reasons to love this grape varietal is its flexibility when pairing with food. The grape can handle almost any kind of fare: fresh fish, seafood, cheese (soft or hard), grilled meats, charcuterie, nuts, olives, chicken and hearty stews. This is due to its medium-body and bright acidity with a balance of fruity intensity, medium tannins and hints of spice. Traditionally this wine is paired with simple “peasant” dishes like stews or roasts but the only thing limiting you is your imagination.

Although the Barbera varietal can be tricky to find in Prince Albert, several options exist and the most common options will specifically state on the label what type of wine you are buying. You will find Barbera DOC (generally from the Piedmont region), Barbera D’Alba DOC (from the sub-region Alba in Piedmont) and/or Barbera D’Asti DOC (higher North in Piedmont). What are the differences?

Barbera DOC will deliver simple, red fruit flavors since it is finished mainly in stainless steel or concrete and the price often ranges from $18 to $30. Barbera D’Alba DOC (further South in Piedmont) is often fruitier and more intense with dark fruits, making the neutral-oak aged versions ready to drink or cellar-worthy. Barbera D’Alba DOC will age 3 to 5 years on average and costs between $25 to $100. Finally, Barbera D’Asti is further north in Piedmont and produces a red wine which is often less intense than the others but carries a more subtle, floral style ideally suited for enigmatic wine pairings. Prices for D’Asti are similar to those for D’Alba.

This being said, there are many other types of Barbera wines to discover including the Barbera del Monferrato DOC which must be made with at least 85% Barbera grapes and the ultra-high quality Nizza DOCG which is highly suited for aging and gifting.

The Fontana Fredda wine was purchased in Prince Albert while the other wines this week were bought in Saskatoon. Get out there and find that Barbera. Happy hunting! Here are my wine picks of the week!

Sansilvestro Barbera Passito 2019: (DOC Barbera, Italy). Dry red, medium purple color. The nose lights up with red cherry, raspberry, cocoa shavings, cigar box spice and earthy forest floor. This red is intense right from the first sip, delivering red/dark sour cherries, raspberries, bush fruits and a rush of black and red pepper flakes. Medium body, medium-plus acidity. Bright and tart with earthy tones and medium-plus tannins. Bitter black tea leaves, stewed cherry and freshly cracked peppercorns carry into cocoa, oak spice and hints of cherry cola on the long finish. Pair with black pepper salami, bruschetta w/ truffle oil or rustic roasted beets topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese. Very good! $25, 14.5% ABV

Fontana Fredda Raimonda Barbera D’Alba 2019: (DOC Barbera D’Alba, Italy). Dry red, medium purple color. Dark fruits dominate the nose with blackberry compote, balsamic currants, dark cherries and fruity, candied plum. On the palate, the wine is subdued at first but decanting enhances the fruity character quickly. Dark fruits abound with plum skins, dark cherry, blackberries and a smooth, fruity style. Concentration is medium with mellow tannins, medium body and medium acidity. A vinous quality can be detected in the background (tomato vine, grape stem and grape skins) and meaty, savory notes surprise with satisfying, gravy-like flavors. Red and purple grapes emerge as the wine breathes and a gentle hit of pepper kicks in near the end of the mid-palate. Herbal notes are present as well (tarragon, oregano) adding complexity. Excellent pairing options include: kabobs, tomato carpaccio, rainbow trout or split pea soup with bacon and lentils (don’t forget the fresh crusty bread). $30, 14.5% ABV

Villa Sparina Barbera del Monferrato 2018: (DOC Barbera del Monferrato, Italy). Dry red, medium ruby color with a tint of violet. The bouquet opens with jammy dark fruits (plum and cherry), concentrated black grapes with hints of balsamic and a twist of lavender with grape bubblegum. To the taste, sour cherries, raspberries and plums open with a follow-up of warming spices (cloves, pepper). The medium-concentrated flavors allow the wine to express licorice and earthy cocoa near the end of the mid-palate without overwhelming the tastebuds. Medium acidity and medium body with a long finish of licorice, dark fruit, graphite and pencil shavings. Medium tannins create a pleasant mouth-coating sensation and yeast or bread notes can be found in the background. Try pairing this Barbera with eggplant/chicken parmesan, meatballs in marinara, Coastal-brand cheese or cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and spinach covered in tangy marinara sauce. Very good! $40, 14% ABV