Posted by: tomciocco | September 12, 2008


The Barberas (d’Alba, d’Asti, Monferrato, etc.) are like one of those families you may have known growing up – a big brood: a good looking group, but not stunningly so. A supremely sturdy and reliable family as whole, but with some individuals of real accomplishment liberally scattered throughout, and to the last one, affable and pretty easy to like.

For the drinker, Barbera is usually a good to great value, and is easy to match with all kinds of food. For the grower, it is cooperative and ample-yielding in the vineyard, and its wines maintain a solid, juicy fruit even in very hot seasons. Both sides of the maker/taker divide love it because it responds well to both oak and tank vinification and aging, and because it is just as comfortable in the slicker contemporary wine stylings of today, as well as the funky but but fine fashions of yore. Barbera’s easy-going nature allows for the creation of a broad array of wine styles and sizes, and that allows the Barberas to get lots of dinner invitations…

What we’ve got on the table today is a Barbera d’Alba. Even just within the Alba growing region, there are multiple meso- and microclimates, but as a rule, Barberas d’Alba tend to be the most statuesque, deep and chewy members of the family, and at 14% alcohol, and with an almost freakishly intense color, the Cascina Chicco Barbera D’Alba “Granera Alta” 2005 is not an excption to that basic family trait… 

Though I usually go “regional” when I cook (Chianti with Tuscan, Chateauneuf-du-Pape with Provencal, etc.) the organic dude at the Hoboken farmer’s market had some killer-looking Italian eggplants, the weather was cool enough, and I had the time (4+ hours), so I decided to make one of my, my wife’s, and maybe your favorite early Fall dishes: Eggplant Parmesan! The first course was a pasta (penoni rigati to be specific) with broccoli, oil, garlic, white wine, and black raisins – a dish with a decidedly un-Piedmontese (Barbera is Piedmont’s go-to variety) accent, but which is very bold and vegetal, two pages of flavor on which an acidic wine like Barbera can write beautifully. And then there was the match with eggplant parm. Holy crap. Again, we’re dealing with a fundamentally vegetal dish, but with lots of fats and proteins from the oils and cheeses, the egg and breadcrumb coating on the slips of the nightshade, as well as the sweetness of the tomato ragu`. This flavor bomb allowed the wine to show its tangy fruit and barrel-chested structure, and the wine in turn really revealed the labor that went into the flavor-layering that makes melanzane alla parmigiana the ecstacy-eliciting experience that it should always be. If you are good to the the eggplants, the eggplants will be good to you. And this Barbera, really living up to the family reputation, showed the eggplants the time of their lives. You’ve definitely got to get them together at your place soon.


penoni rigati with broccoli and raisins

penoni rigati with broccoli and raisins

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan



Cascina Chicco Barbera d’Alba “Granera Alta” 2005
Exceptionally bright and vibrant deep crimson color. Evocative nose of cherries, woodsmoke, black currant, dried wildflowers and sandalwood incense. The palate is dense, juicy, and soft but still firmly structured with flavors of pomegranate, melted dark chocolate, black pepper, underbrush and leaves, and black licorice. The finish is full, lasting and complex. Virile.




  1. Glad to see your stuuf out there again. I steal it every chance I get ’cause nobody gets it more than you.


  2. Thanks Dave – Good to hear from you.

    Dave Wagner is an old colleague, a chef, and a wine lover that now heads up a great little wine shop in Berkeley Heights, NJ called Berkeley Wine Comapny – – If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s a great spot to find some great “off the beaten path” wines.


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