Since our last “Better Know A Varietal” feature was on Barbera (http://thewinepopulist.com/?p=373), I thought it would be nice to review one. Villa Sparina’s Barbera Del Monferrato Superiore 2012, is a very nice example of a modern take on Barbara. While the wine maker does not use oak to add tannins they do allow the malolactic fermentation (See http://thewinepopulist.com/?p=225 for a discussion of oak aging and http://thewinepopulist.com/?p=23 for a discussion of malolactic fermentation). This rounds out what can otherwise be an acidic variety into a wine that makes a nice sipping wine as well as going great with food. The bright cherry notes are underlain with the flavors of plums and even a bit of cedar. Barbara’s are general very food friendly. This one would be great with a plate of cheese and charcuterie. It retails for around $16, which is mid priced for a Barbera from Monferrato. Enjoy.
Barbera is a red wine grape from Italy. It used to be the most widely planted grape in Italy but has been supplanted by Sangiovese and recently Montepulciano. In most of Italy it is blended into wines that are not very interesting. In the northwestern Italian province of Piedmont it is sometimes treated with the respect it deserves, particularly in the regions around the cities of Asti and Alba as well as the Monferrato Hills. Recently some California wine makers have been experimenting with it too.
Barbera is a fairly acidic variety with flavors of cherry, raspberry and blackberry. In the better examples, earthy notes such as cedar can be tasted. What makes Barbara unique is that for a red wine grape it has very little tannin. Some producers view this as a flaw and add tannins by aging their Barbera in oak barriques (see http://thewinepopulist.com/?p=225 for a discussion of oak aging). While this can yield very nice wines, all too often it turns them into rather generic tasting reds.
Far from viewing the lack of tannins as a flaw, I see it as an asset. As a result of its acidity and lack of tannins, a well made Barbera is probably the most versatile and food friendly wine there is. Looking for a red wine to have with fish? Try a Barbera. Having a group of friends over that includes vegetarians and carnivores? Give them a Barbera. Having something in a cream sauce and want to have a red wine with it. Barbera is the wine for you. Oh, and there may be no better wine to have with pizza.
Some Barbera’s are too acidic to make pleasant sipping wines but even there, for me, their versatility with food more than makes up for that. Enjoy.
Yesterday a woman told me about loosing several wines to the heat. She and her husband had bought them on a trip to the North Fork of Long Island a few weeks ago. They only have airconditioning in their bedroom and the wines were in the kitchen. They all got cooked which is a shame as it was preventable. If you are in their place stick the wines in the fridge, even reds. You can take them out a couple of hours before you drink them and they will be fine. While it is far from ideal and not good for longterm storage your fridge at 40f is a lot better than your kitchen at 90f. If you can it is better to store wines that have corks on their sides as a fridge will dry out a cork pretty quickly. Stay cool.
This fortnight’s wine is a rosé that takes something of a different path. DMZ is made by the DeMorgenzon winery in the Western Cape area of South Africa. Although labeled as being a “Cabernet Rosé”, a little digging on the web revealed that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (no Cabernet Franc). This in itself is a bit unusual. Cabernet Sauvignon is not that popular of a grape for making rosé. Based on appearance and flavor I think this wine has had longer skin contact than most rosés. As a result, the wine is bigger and bolder than most rosés but retains the thirst quenching character that makes rosés so appealing in the summer. This one can handle bold and spicy dishes like barbecue that are popular now. Retailing at between $10 -$15 it is a good value too. Enjoy.
Here in the northern hemisphere it is officially summer. It sure feels like it too. In these days of central heating and air conditioning you can comfortably drink just about any wine any time of year. Some wines better suit some seasons though.
So what makes for a good summer wine. Well first it has to be a good wine. No amount of beach vacation or pretty views is going to make a bad wine good. They may have you paying less attention to how bad they are. Getting past that here are some of the qualities I look for. I like summer wines to be lower in alcohol. Alcohol promotes a warming sensation. In white wines I prefer crisper wines to big oaky ones. In red wines I like them to be more on the acidic side. I don’t mind some tannins but a prefer a red that doesn’t leave me thirsty.
Rosés are great for summer drinking.
Malbec is a red grape that probably originated around Bordeaux and is still a minor variety there. In France it is a major player in Cahors in the south-west of France but it is in Argentina that it found its most popular home.
Malbec makes deeply colored wines with fairly high levels of tannin which in good examples is matched by darker fruit flavors such as plum and blackberry. Woodsy and cedar notes can also be tasted in some Malbec. Aromas can be a bit subdued compared to the flavors.
Argentine Malbec are most often found as single variety wines but there are some nice examples that are blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah.
I have rarely tasted a bad Argentine Malbec and the can often be good values as nice ones can be had for under $15. Stepping up to just over $20 can yield some very nice wines. French Cahors are frequently overly tannic. Chasing after the international market that knows Malbec from Argentina has caused some makers of Cahors to make poorly balanced fruit bombs. There are some good Cahors but they tend to need at least five years of age before they reach a nice drinkable balance.
The spam bots hit us hard. I just deleted over 1,300 pieces of spam. If you had a real comment that got caught in the mix, I apologize. Real comments are always very much appreciated and I will be making an effort to stay ahead of the bots so the real content can be posted.
Here is an interesting article on alleged arsenic contamination of inexpensive California wines. I have a background in environmental contamination and am somewhat skeptical. There is nothing I know of in the wine making process that is likely to add inorganic arsenic. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/21/arsenic-california-wine-lawsuit/?#article-copy
I have been neglecting the blog as life has gotten in the way. Well I am back at it. I have initiated a series on our Facebook page called “Tip of the Glass”. These are very short little tips to help the wine novice. Like us on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/TheWinePopulistcom/194773743898660 to read them.
I don’t think this belongs in a “A Wine For The Fortnight” segment as it is not that easy to find. Rather this is about the joy of buying a wine, laying it down and enjoying it at maturity. Sagrantino is the signature grape of the area around the town of Montefalco in Umbria, Italy. Traditionally it was made as a sweet wine using the passito method of drying grapes to concentrate them. It was re-born as a powerful tannic dry wine in the 1970’s. Don’t get me wrong the sweet wine can be fantastic but most people know the dry.
Some producers are now making wines that are fairly approachable when young but the best need eight to ten years to mature and can easily last for twenty. We bought this wine back in 2008 and it has been sleeping in our cellar ever since. Sunday we had a fantastic T-bone from a local farmer in Vermont. Don’t let people tell you that grass fed beef is tough. This was melt in your mouth tender. I served it with some fried potatoes and a green salad, and of course the Sagrantino. Everything came together making it more than worth the effort to resist opening it over the last six years.