Posted by: tomciocco | November 28, 2010

“A” LIST BARBERA

I wouldn’t say that I’ve never met a Barbera that I didn’t like, but I do like them a whole lot. And I’ve also written about this Piedmontese staple wine before, and surely will again, but to my senses, Trinchero’s (treen-KER-o) Barberas (along with a few others like Giacomo Conterno’s, and Giacomo Bologna’s) remain in the vanguard, and are always worth tapping out a few lines for…

As I’ve likely said before, Barbera is a tough and reliable ride for the grower because it will tolerate all sorts of abuses both man-made and natural, and still give the farmer a versatile, saleable product.  But those producers who have chosen to grow it on their best vineyard sites, and really pamper the vines year-round, make wines that clearly demonstrate that Barbera is more than just a ham-fisted if cheerful fat-cutter.

Barberas, even the simple ones, all possess, in addition to this or that flavor or aroma, a certain ineffable character that is even difficult to imagine in the “mind’s nose”. Close your eyes, and you can fairly readily conjure the essence of Pinot Noir, or Sangiovese, or even Tempranillo, but Barbera? Well for me, the REALLY good Barberas possess this indescribable “something” in spades, and it is this mysterious yet oddly direct charm that makes Barbera a great companion for any course but dessert…

Due to Barbera’s dearth of tannins, no Italian red wine so greatly benefits (potentially) from a sojourn in wood, allowing the oak to impart its natural tannins to the wine, adding further texture and complexity. Trinchero is decidedly traditional in their approach to oak aging (only 12 months in large, re-used Slavonian oak casks) and everything else for that matter, and that suits me (and hopefully you too) just fine – more terroir for us…The 2003 vintage was a tough one due to extreme heat, but except for a few (very tasty) dried/preserved fruit notes, the wine is still balanced and shows none of the early hollowed-out exhaustion often associated with wines from very hot vintages.

I went pretty strictly Piedmontese in the kitchen so as not to disappoint this seriously place driven wine: Risotto with mushrooms and roasted fennel and then somewhat painstaking worth the effort caponet (Piedmontese-style stuffed cabbage [pork and beef] with sage, rosemary, cocoa powder (!), etc.) with soft polenta.

Trinchero Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2003

Slightly browned blackish purple/garnet color. Very big and expressive nose of wood smoke, dark berries, plums, toasted walnuts, and notes of dried red flowers and iodine. In the mouth the wine feels full, deep, and chewy, with a firm and broad acidity, and an overall intense, sapid, and very complex range of flavors including juniper berries, balsamic vinegar, grape jelly, cinnamon and cloves. The wine finishes with a long tart, smokey cranberry finish

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