Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: A wine for the bridge between seasonsBy JIM BEAUREGARD September 20. 2017 2:37AM
We are, in a manner of speaking, between things at the moment. Autumn has not quite officially arrived — that happens Friday — but we can’t really say that it’s still summer, can we? That chill is in the air, the nights and the mornings are cool. It can still get hot in the middle of the day, up in the 80s as it has been this past week.
So this week I set out in search of a wine that could straddle the two seasons — one that was light enough to recall summer, but had enough heft to look to the fall. This time around, I found the answer in Barbera D’Asti in a recent trip to Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop in Manchester.
So, Barbera D’Asti. This entails telling something about a grape and a place. Barbera is the grape, and Asti the place.
First the grape. Barbera is a red grape widely planted in the north of Italy. My Oxford Companion to Wine tells me that there were more than 50,000 acres of it growing in 2010. It appears to be a historically recent grape as it doesn’t have much of the way of genetic connection to other grapes native to northern Italy. It’s a grape that has a huge amount of acidity, which gives it zest and zing, especially if you’re drinking it on a hot day.
It underwent a change in the 1980s and ’90s as a result of the increasing use of barrel aging, which gave it some added flavor, and today you’ll find a variety of expressions of the Barbera grape, from light and a bit fizzy to big and red and dark. Whatever its expression, it tends to be a deep ruby color and high in acidity, as I mentioned, but relatively low in tooth- and gum-coating tannin.
Next, the region. Asti is both the town and a province in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. You might already be familiar with the names Asti Spumanti or Moscato D’Asti, sparkling wines made in the region. Several grapes are grown in the region, including Dolcetto, Freisa and Barbera. Barbera D’Asti is now a holder of Italy’s highest wine designation, the DOCG.
Barbera D’Asti de la Rocchetta, Giorgio Carnevali, 2015. 14% alcohol by volume. $15.95, Angela’s Pasta and Cheese shop, Manchester. It is indeed ruby red in the glass and has a fairly generous ring that goes to lightening and then clear, suggesting that it is still very young wine. It has great legs, slow moving and relatively thick. The nose is generous with red fruit, and I get cherry, light raspberry, and some red plum aromas.
The palate is actually bigger than the nose suggests. This is a medium-bodied wine, smooth with a generous mouth feel, and the good, mouthwatering acidity that the grape is known for. The tannin is light, but it is most definitely there, and stays with you through the finish.
The flavors run to darker red fruits, with richer plum flavors, that also hold onto the very ripe cherry. It has a fairly long finish that holds the flavors, which modulate back-and-forth right through to the end. 88 points.
This will be a very nice wine to pair with chicken in a red sauce, as well as with a substantial salad, and perhaps a strawberry rhubarb pie.
Just as an aside to wrap things up: I noticed that Angela’s has new chocolate collection — Lake Champlain Chocolates, made in Burlington, Vt. I have a friend who is a bourbon lover, and what caught my eye was a bar of Bourbon Caramel chocolate, whose ingredients, yes, include bourbon as well as milk and dark chocolate. They’ve got several different flavors — check them out next time you are at Angela’s.
Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at firstname.lastname@example.org.