This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20081205.php.
Let's wrap up the work week with a quick look at another Barbera from Piemonte, subject of December's Wine Focus in our WineLovers Discussion Groups.
When I introduced this topic Wednesday, you'll recall, I mentioned that Piemonte reds offer both the opportunity for a splurge (in the form of Barolo, Barbaresco and other high-end Nebbiolo-based reds), and the option for frugality (in the form of Barbera and its cousins).
With the holiday season coming up fast, there'll be some occasion for splurging, and I'll present at least one fancy Nebbiolo in these pages before month's end. (You'll also find some good discussions already online in the Wine Focus forum - click the link above to find them.)
For now, though, I'm sticking with my usual practice - especially in these recessionary times - of going with good wines that offer real value at affordable price points. In short, wines that drink better than they cost.
Case in point, today's featured wine, a 2006 Barbera Monferrato "Maràia" from Marchesi di Barolo, a large but ancient Piemonte producer that traces its roots back some 800 years.
You'll notice that Barbera and Piemonte's other primary modest red, Dolcetto, typically add the name of the region in which they're grown. Barbera d'Alba and Dolcetto d'Asti, for example.
I don't see Monferrato attached to a Barbera quite as often, but the name bears historic weight: the Latin species name assigned Barbera in 1798, "Vitis vinifera Montisferratensis," pays homage to Monferrato as origin of the grape. Says the Italian Trade Commission on its Barbera del Monferrato page, this hilly region is, "still today, the principal center for the cultivation of the Barbera variety."
The Marchesi's 2006 Barbera Monferrato is a very good value and a good food wine, as Barbera should be, with bright red fruit and some interesting "green" and "sappy" notes wrapped up in fresh, snappy acidity. At $10.99 locally, it's a good value, and it's worth shopping around for it, as Wine-Searcher.com shows it at prices ranging all the way from $8 to a virtually rapacious $16 from the giant E-tailer wine.com. My tasting notes are below.
To participate in Wine Focus, bring your Piemonte wine-tasting reports and your questions and comments to the Wine Focus forum in our WineLovers Discussion Groups,
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Marchesi di Barolo 2006 "Maràia" Barbera Monferrato ($10.99)
Dark reddish-purple, clear garnet edge. Plummy fruit and a bit of a "sappy," "green" herbal character that's not unpleasant. Bright red-fruit flavor wrapped up with fresh, snappy acidity. Typical of Barbera, an excellent food wine. U.S. importer: Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Fla. (Nov. 19, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: This lighter-style red won't war with red meat, but it's particularly suited to alternatives such as veal, duck or turkey. It was fine with a simple dish of turkey medallions braised with onions and garlic.
VALUE: In today's wine market, the $10 range is hard to beat for a good, serviceable table wine at this quality level. It may pay to shop around, as Wine-Searcher.com reports a wide range of U.S. prices.
WHEN TO DRINK: It doesn't strike me as the kind of Barbera that will reward long cellaring. Drink up over the next year or two.
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