DOCG Reds of Piedmont, Part 1 – Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme 2010

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore le Orme 2010

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore le Orme 2010

Except for maybe Willamette or Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Napa Cabernet and a few other star American wines, Italian wines are among my favorite, and reds in particular. While I cover a lot of American wines on this blog, there are many vineyards within a short distance, and hence there is a certain convenience factor. In fact I drove by two more I have yet to visit in the beautiful (and presently snow-covered) Farmington valley the other day on the way to my ski destination. That being said, I am very fond of many other wines from my homeland. But many at the top of the list are on the opposite coast, not much shorter than a trip to Europe I’m afraid. I will get to visit them one of these days. I also like to support local winegrowers and winemakers, one of which I hope to be one day. If I could get to Italian vineyards as easily, there would be a lot more of that talk here! Fortunately though they are easy to get. Well, most, anyways.

Though there are many, I’d say Piedmont has the most different types of wines that I regularly enjoy. Not to mention, the region has the most DOC and DOCGs of any in Italy. So the odds are already in its favor. I love a good Nero D’Avola, Montepulciano or Primitivo, but let’s talk Piedmont for the moment. I would like to note that there are also very nice whites in the region including Gavi and Roero Arneis, some of which I will review, perhaps even after this series. We went to a wine tasting event focused on Piedmont wines last week, and I discovered some great new wines. While Barolo and Barbaresco are the ruling reds of the region, I can’t wait to tell you about my first meeting with Gattinara in the last installment. But unlike Gattinara, Barolo or Barbaresco which are made from Nebbiolo, Barbera is it’s own variety. It actually makes up 50% of the red wine DOC output from the region.

This wine I’ve had a few times now. It’s a perfect example of a quality Barbera D’Asti, ruby in color, low tannin, high acidity, fruit-forward and medium-bodied. It has nice black cherry notes on the nose and palate and some smoke, earth, and oak aromas as well. It is made from hand-picked old-vine grapes. The vineyard’s southwestern and eastern-facing hills are full of the calcium and minerals perfect for growing this variety. Once vinified, it is then aged a year in oak.  It is 12.5% abv and you can find it at most larger U.S. retailers for $10-$14 which is a great bargain, and another reason I keep coming back. After doing a little research on comparitive pricing, I see it is also very well reviewed and popular on several online wine retail sites. This doesn’t surprise me. I had it with chicken cacciatore and it was a fantastic pairing for both the poultry and the red sauce.

I have yet to try Barbera D’Alba, a slightly fuller and less acidic (and more expensive) Barbera, but it’s on the list once I can find it in a store. Seems there are not many in Connecticut that have it. Based on how much I enjoy the Barbera D’Asti, I will track it down so I can do a side-by-side comparison! In the meantime, I highly recommend it.  In the next installment, Barbaresco, and some homemade porkchops.

Let’s Talk Accessories: Wine Tags

Wine tags

Wine bottle tags

One thing I noticed shortly after finishing the assembly of my first sizeable wine rack last fall, was that telling the bottles apart and finding the one I’m looking for the first time is about as easy as finding one of my vinyl records in my collection. Clearly there’s a reason for those alphabetical record shelf dividers, and if they weren’t so expensive (these people know there’s a market here) I’d have a whole set of them already. Fortunately, the wine bottle tags I’m telling you about today are much more affordable.

40 (or more) wine bottles lying on their side, especially in a somewhat dark and light/heat safe environment, are a challenge to navigate without some help. That’s where these tags come in. Surely we’ve all seen these before. If not in our own cellar, than in a restaurant or at the very least a magazine, book or television show.

The wine tags in action

The wine tags in action

While browsing at the new local wine shop, I picked up a box of these to simplify my life. Within minutes I was able to label my most precious, and/or not ready-to-drink wines as such. I know now on first glance most of these are not one to pull out for just any occasion. Some I just labeled with the drink-by date if the name on the tag doesn’t immediately say ‘save me.’ These that I bought came in both red and white labels so you can skip that detail. Wine Enthusiast (no need to thank me, guys) has many different options that are all very affordable. Now, I didn’t label all of them, but I suppose you could go hog-wild at these prices. For me, there is some enjoyment in browsing my collection, without revisiting all those I know I want to save.

As I dream of what the new home I’m buying this spring will look like and how much room I will have to store wine and build more racks, I hope to have the occasion to buy many many more of these handy tags. Not to mention, start my own wine-making experiments I mentioned and label those as well!