Barbera is a surprisingly widely planted grape in Italy - surprising, that is, in that its predominance in the vineyards (where it is said to be the nation's No. 1 red grape, ahead of even the Sangiovese of Chianti) does not seem to be reflected in the presence of Barbera on retail shelves in the rest of the world. Perhaps the Piemontese keep much of it at home, accepting it for what it is - a hearty red wine that's affordable and easy to drink - while saving the region's pricey and ageworthy Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco for export ... and special occasions.
You'll also find an occasional Barbera from California, typically brought over by the wine country's Italian immigrant ancestors and carried on by their descendants.
No pale, wimpy wine, Barbera stands out as a dark, full-bodied wine with a high degree of acidity that can make it almost tangy for sipping by itself, but a great companion with red meat - even game - and tomato-sauced dishes. This one is an excellent example of the style, made by the young and well-reputed Barolo producer Domenico Clerico.
Clerico 1998 "Trevigne" Barbera d'Alba ($16.99)
FOOD MATCH: A half-leg of lamb braised in red wine and balsamic vinegar on a bed of onions, fresh rosemary and black olives (a Modena dish from Lynn Rossetto Kasper's "Italian Country Table") offers the robust fare needed to stand up to this hearty red.
the Rhone and Provence
Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin, sommeliers-conseil who live in France, will join me to present this tour, which will feature a week of in-depth exploration of the wines of these two beautiful regions.
The tour is limited to 16 participants, so reservations will remain open only until these places are filled. For more information, click to the details at http://www.wineloverspage.com/tour.
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Thursday, Nov. 29, 2001