By Bruce Cochran
According to a recently released Wines & Vines Winery Directory/Buying Guide. Over 460 new wineries were started in California last year. That brings the total number of California wineries to just over 2,000. Looks like we won’t be running out of wines to taste any time soon!
On February 21, I’ll be in South America, but back on February 28 as we approach our 200th issue of E Wine of the Week.
Taste something good this week!
Last week we discussed the pinot noir grape and where some of the best ones are being grown today. This week we’ll look at another medium-weight red wine that’s great with food, called Barbera.
Barbera is from northern Italy, where it’s grown primarily in three adjoining states: Piedmont, Lombardy and the Emilia part of Emilia-Romagna. In Piedmont, it is sometimes confused with wines from the village of Barberesco, which are made from the nebbiolo grape. The best barbera’s of Piedmont are made near that village and while not as strong and tannic as a typical nebbiolo they are longer-aged than most others from around the world. The best village in my opinion is Alba (of white truffle fame), followed closely by Asti (better known for its moscato-based spumante).
Lombardy (Lombardia in Italian) is best known for its capital Milan in the center and Lake Como in its north. In the south where these three states join is a little known vineyard area called Oltrepo Pavese. No tourists here and few notable wineries, but the quality of grapes is so high that many Piedmont producers purchase grapes here to take back to their own wineries.
Just south of Milan, in northern Emilia, is a little known, locally loved wine region around the city of Piacenza, western anchor of the old Roman road Via Emilia. In its western hills is another Barbera region, called Colli Piacentini (“Hills of Piacenza”). The style here is deeply colored, a little more fruit-centered than the ones over the mountain in Piedmont. This will be familiar to many readers who have traveled with me. You can see a photo on my web site’s travel page.
Barbera is a deeply colored red wine whose style tends to fall somewhere between a cabernet and a merlot, though in flavor it’s probably more reminiscent of something between a pinot noir and a syrah. In Milan, barbera is the preferred accompaniment to their famous Osso Buco (veal shanks).
After taking many groups to northern Italy (and another one is forming now for fall), I and many others were buying barbera from a restaurant to bring home, since it wasn’t available here. Last fall I made arrangements (including getting a permit) to import some to Arkansas. It’s called Ferrari & Perin Babera, from the Colli Piacentini. Retail price around $17-$18 a bottle.
For questions, comments, or to subscribe to the electronic version of E Wine of the Week, email Bruce at: firstname.lastname@example.org