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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Barbera Uncorked: 2003 Barbera D'Alba Bric Loira

I'm interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without. - Ansel Adams

Some of you may have guessed from my tweets [if you follow me there] that I have a new place to hang my hat occasionally for work. That place is Bird Rock Fine Wine in La Jolla; a hearty stones throw the sun, surf and sand. It was there just yesterday, I had an opportunity to meet the winemaker and his wife from Cascina Chicco, his name Enrico Faccenda. 

Their winery in northern Italy, Cascina Chicco, is located on a idyllic hillside in Piedmont, where you will find that they are one of the top producers in the region. It's described as a true "family-run" operation, with many different family members pitching-in to help. 

While he didn't speak much English, what spoke to me most was the passion in his wine-making, evident and eloquent in every sip, slurp and even the eventual big gulp. Of course, I'm just kidding of course as I was spitting that afternoon, but you get the idea [too bad big-gulps in this setting are not optional].

I had the opportunity to taste through a nice swath of his portfolio and I have to say that overall I was very impressed with the wines being poured yesterday. Even the unusual late harvest wine, [called Arcass] which I sampled yesterday, produced from the Arneis grape [had me thinking of orange/apricot marmalade] was fantastically engaging wine, sporting obvious viscosity, length of flavors, with a nice pop of acid to carry the abundant dried-fruit. If you'd like to read more about this wine and take an indepth look at this style of dessert wine, here's a link to read more.

In Piedmont region, many vino-sapiens are quite aware that while Barbera may play second fiddle to Nebbiolo, which is the grape behind Barbaresco and Barolo. But that doesn’t mean locals and even the garden varitety cork-dorks in the know, haven’t embraced it as a red-wine they can drink all-year-round with all sorts of food.

Nebbiolo and Barbera are grapes where you'll find higher acidity and often sport a definite note of bing-cherry. But they part ways when it comes time to get some grape-skin in the game. You'll find many [not all] Nebbiolo based wines can have an intense tannin structure, but little color, from its skins. While on the other hand, Barbera can be a deep, dark ruby color, with medium to low tannins. 

Because Barbera is inherently low in tannins, the use of barriques has been introduced to impart some much-needed wood tannin into the wine. It’s a fairly new approach [in the context of Italian wine-making history] to enhance this wine’s structure, complexity and also a way to soften or take the burr off the saddle of Barbera’s tart acidity. So of course the operative phrase, when it comes to producing outstanding Barbera is the "judicious use of oak" simply stated too much oak, is nothing but a joke.

While it is generally agreed that the best producing area for Barbera wines is that of Asti region, the wine in today's review spotlight comes from the D'Alba region where you'll find many tasty Barolo and Barbaresco wines. But believe this wine is no slouch, when it comes to flavor, length and complexity.

The best vintages [2003 was definitely one of them] with age, tend to sport a garnet core, but this wine was still leaning toward the ruby side of the equation. The nose right away gave away the plot-line to the upcoming show; velvety, harmonious quality of considerable elegance in the dark-fruit to earth ratio.

Soon as I got this wine from the glass into my mouth, boom, what hit my palate was a very pleasant, easy to drink wine, which oozed elegance and power. A wine I found harmonious and tasty at the same time. The finish sails on and on, while it shouts-out, I'm a chef’s dream, because it displays such exceptional versatility, when it comes to food pairing. It’s a wine that would make a nice addition to any restaurants wine-list. I scored this wine 92 points; it sells for about $35 most places, well worth the price of admission, Barbera at its best! Until next time folks sip long and prosper cheers!

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