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In This Issue
 Let's give thanks for Barbera
 Cantine Sant'Agata 2001 "Baby Barb" Barbera d'Asti ($11.99)
 Bera 2002 Barbera d'Alba ($12.99)
 California Wine Club
 New, quick and affordable: Zap your text message on The Wine Advisor
 This week on
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

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For all past editions,
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For information, E-mail

Let's give thanks for Barbera

Here's a topic that does double duty for the holiday season: Barbera ("Bar-BARE-ah"), a workhorse grape of Northwestern Italy, makes a good and usually affordable option at any time of year. And, it occurred to me during a recent tasting, it ought to go very nicely with turkey and the other goodies that adorn the holiday table.

Northwestern Italy's Piemonte region, Barbera's native home, is practically awash with the stuff, which makes up about half of all the red-grape vineyard plantings there. It came to California with immigrant winemakers in the 19th century and is also planted in Washington State, although Barbera needs a cool growing climate to show its best, and much of the California crop ends up blended anonymously in inexpensive "jug" wines.

At its best, though, from Italy or the New World, Barbera can make a hearty, quaffable red wine that's affordable and easy to drink. So, along with Dolcetto (another Piemontese red grape that we'll examine more closely one day soon) it's a favorite wine for everyday drinking in the region that's better known for Barolo and Barbaresco but saves those fancy, pricey items for special occasions.

Barbera, like Chianti and quite a few other Italian reds, gains its affinity for food through a sharp, snappy acidity that both cleanses and provides a fresh balance. Moreover, while heavy on acid, it's typically light in tannins, lacking the puckery tannic astringency that works with rare red meat but can come across as harsh and even bitter in other food contexts. This relatively unusual high-acid, low-tannin flavor profile makes it a winner with poultry, from roast chicken to duck to Thanksgiving turkey!

I've placed this article online as a topic in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. If you would like to tell us what you think about Barbera (or other good Turkey Day wines, or for that matter, and wine-related topic) in a round-table online discussion, click to
Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'm sorry that the overwhelming amount of mail I receive makes it tough to respond personally every time, but I do try to get back to as many as I can.

Baby Barb Cantine Sant'Agata 2001 "Baby Barb" Barbera d'Asti ($11.99)

Nicknamed "Baby Barb," the importer says, because it's made to drink fresh and young and comes straight from the grape without any oak, this is a benchmark expression of Barbera. Inky dark blackish-purple in color and ripe in aroma, it breathes sweet red cherries and spice. Juicy tart-cherry fruit and a lemon-squirt of acidity make for a fresh, mouth-watering flavor that goes very well with food. U.S. importer: John Given Wines Co., Manhasset, N.Y. (Nov. 22, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Try it with Thanksgiving turkey, although we found it a stellar match with something more downscale: Old-fashioned beef-and-pork meatloaf loaded with onions and bell peppers.

VALUE: Still a good value at this price, but I've seen it on the Web for a couple of dollars less.

WHEN TO DRINK: A year or two on the wine rack won't hurt it, but it's best to enjoy Barbera while it's young and fresh.

WEB LINK: You'll find the importer's fact sheet here:
For "where-to-find-it" information, back up to the importer's home page.

Bera Bera 2002 Barbera d'Alba ($12.99)

Dark garnet in color, its aroma is on the shy side, fresh black fruit with a pleasantly earthy note. Much more forward in the flavor, as you would expect of a young Barbera: Simple but fresh and juicy plum flavors are laced up with Barbera's trademark lemon-sharp acidity. U.S. importer: Pellegrini Wines Inc., South San Francisco, Calif. (Nov. 14, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with the earthy, robust flavors of pork chops braised with porcini and juniper berries.

VALUE: Appropriately priced. (For what it's worth, the local price of this wine has stayed the same since the 1997 vintage, purchased in 1999.)

WHEN TO DRINK: Not meant for aging, although a year or two won't do it any harm.

WEB LINK: A Piemonte producers' Website has information on Fratelli Bera, in Italian only, at

California Wine Club

California Wine Club

The California Wine Club makes holiday shopping easy!

No shopping, no shipping and no wrapping! This year enjoy the holiday season and send a gift of wine with The California Wine Club. One phone call does it all!

Each month includes two bottles of award-winning wine, hand-selected from the best of California's small, family owned wineries. Just $32.95/month plus shipping and includes an informative 8-page newsletter, Uncorked.

Call 1-800-777-4443. Order now and there is no billing and no shipping until December 2003. Visit
and check out the special discounts on gifts of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. Holiday wines tastefully wrapped in the colors of the season!

New, quick and affordable: Zap your text message on The Wine Advisor

As I frequently point out to those of you in the wine business, there is no quicker, better or more efficient way to deliver a wine-related message to wine lovers around the world than an advertising "sponsorship" on

Now, just in time for the busy holiday season, we're introducing another low-cost, high-impact alternative that makes it easy even for small wine-related businesses with limited advertising budgets to reach our international audience of wine-savvy readers with a simple, discreet and affordable text message in The 30 Second Wine Advisor. It's just about as quick as tapping out an instant text message on your mobile phone, and not a whole lot more expensive.

For more information, or to reserve space while it's available, write me today at

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles and features that I hope you'll enjoy:

Bucko's Wine Reports: November new releases
The return of cool weather has our columnist Randy "Bucko" Buckner reaching for his hearty reds and Ports. Crisp nights, the roar of the stadium crowds and the smell of wood smoke bring back warm memories, "Bucko" says, wishing us all the best of the season. With the holidays just around the corner, Bucko adds a bonus of 25 sparkling wines, expanding his regular report on new and current releases to 125 items this month.

Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: Irritating wine bottles
If you think all wine bottles look alike, you might not be paying attention. Wine collectors discover that bottle shapes matter the first time they try to cram an extra-fat jug into a wine-rack space that won't accommodate it ... and you don't need to be a collector to grumble when that extra-tall bottle won't stand upright on the refrigerator shelf. This week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth invites you tell us about, "The wine bottles that irritate you most."

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 A taste of Nouveau (and more) (Nov. 21, 2003)

 Feasting with wine (Nov. 19, 2003)

 What's Nouveau? (Nov. 17, 2003)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pounding chicken (Nov. 20, 2003)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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Monday, Nov. 24, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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