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Italy’s Barbera

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‘E’ Wine of the Week

By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

This week I’m celebrating my next trip to Italy with a look at one of the wines that some of us discovered while traveling there. Travel can be a great learning experience, and I’m excited about going back to Italy this September. Some of you may know that I’ve spent less time there the past couple of years because of family issues, but now it’s time to get back in the saddle! The September trip is sold out, but you can read the itinerary, even get on the waiting list if you like, on my Web site, brucecochran.com.

Try a new wine this week!

Bruce

Ferrari & Perini Barbera

The barbera grape typically makes a hearty, deeply colored yet drinkable red wine that’s great with food. Its native home is northwestern Italy, where it’s grown primarily in three adjoining states: Piedmont (Turin), Lombardy (Milan) and Emilia-Romagna (Bologna).

In Piedmont, it is sometimes confused with wines from the village of Barbaresco, a village whose wines 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 both are longer-aged than most other Italian barbera’s. 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 its center and Lake Como in its north. In the south, where it joins Piedmont and Emilia, is a little known vineyard area called Oltrepo Pavese. Not many tourists here, and few notable wineries, but the quality of grapes, including barbera, is so high that many Piedmont producers purchase grapes here to take back to their own wineries.

Just south of Milan, across the Po River into northern Emilia, is a little known, locally loved wine region around the ancient city of Piacenza, western anchor of the old Roman road Via Emilia. In its western hills is a fine 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), as we discovered this wine at a restaurant I frequent.

Barbera’s deep color 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 (shiraz). In Milan this is the preferred accompaniment to their classic dish Osso Buco (veal shanks).

The one we discovered at that Emiliana restaurant, is made by Massimo Perini, at Ferrari & Perini. And yes, this is the Italian region where Ferrari’s are made, but Massimo’s town of Piacenza is at the opposite side of Emilia, so it’s not a direct enough family connection for me to get a discount! Massimo’s “Ferrari & Perini Barbera” retails in the $15-$20 price range.

Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.

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