Posts Filed Under Italian Wine
The venerable Barbera d’Asti Superiore as… The Incredible Hulk?
Yeah, it’s probably a stretch… BUT…
There’s something to be said for a superhero of an Italian red that is perennially underestimated, and yet in its best examples can stand up in aging to its more glamorous Asti-area cousins Barbaresco and Barolo. At least, that’s the case I make in my latest piece for MyNameIsBarbera.com.
And yes, I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced this stuff first-hand.
When touring the Monferrato region last year, I had the chance to get my grubby little paws on a few older bottles of Barbera d’Asti Superiore, and I was frankly stunned at how well they’d held up over the years. Take, for example, the 1999 Bava Stradivario, Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG. At nearly twenty years old, that wine was vibrantly, energetically alive, still had a tart red fruit core, and earthy, ample spiciness. It wasn’t just “drinkable;” it was refined, elegant, and surreptitiously powerful. In other words, it was kicking ass.
Anyway, read on and you can tell me if I’m crazy or not…
BIG BIG BIG. BIG BARBERA D’ASTI SUPERIORE
In my latest article for MyNameIsBarbera.com, I make a case for legitimately comparing Barbera d’Asti to… Michael Jackson.
Yeah, that Michael Jackson.
The King of Pop Michael Jackson.
My penchant for stretching cross-discipline compares to incredibly thin levels aside (I wonder if the Barbera d’Asti folks knew what they were getting into when they picked me up for this gig?), I think that the simile in this case isn’t much of a stretch.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a wine region + grape combination that combines the same wide appeal, high base quality levels, raw potential, and large production/availability as Asti and Barbera at what we often think of as the “entry” level for those wines. Think about it… there are others that could be argued as the King of Pop Wine, but the list is pretty short.
You can read the entire piece at the link below (and then come back to heckle to me if you think I was off the mark… which I wasn’t… ok, whatever…):
BARBERA D’ASTI, THE KING OF POP WINE
Nestled in the sandy clay soils between the Taburno and Matese mountain ranges in Italy’s Campania region, at about 200 meters above sea level, sit a relatively small number thirty year old lost souls.
Well, almost lost souls, anyway.
Specifically, the “esoteric” grape varieties Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia, rescued in part as a passion project of husband and wife team Peppe and Manuela Mancini, the former lawyer and journalist, respectively, that founded Terre del Principe. (which I visited this year as part of a media tour around the Campania Stories event).
That their vineyard is a land of the almost lost (no Sleestaks, of course) is one of the more charming things about a charming couple who are making mostly charming wines.
Peppe Mancini at Terre del Principe
Peppe Mancini, in remembering the Pallagrello wines form his youth, sought out the vines and ended up finding them in this vineyard, which turned out to belong to one of his family members. Until recently, Pallagrello Bianco wasn’t even in the National Register of winemaking grapes. Seemingly, it had fallen out of favor when the Bourbons fell during the unification of Italy (King Ferdinand IV had taken a liking to it), and had never recovered.
Similarly, Casavecchia (taking its name from an “old house” where the vine was found growing in Pontelatone) had been relegated to small-time, rustic production until Mancini helped to spearhead its rediscovery in the 1980s.
Along with cellarmaster Luigi Moio, Peppe makes the wines of Terre del Principe (while Manuela, as she modestly states, “just drinks it.”) in Castel Campagnano tufo cellar that dates back to the 10th century (the well in the 15th Century entrance is now used for lowering French oak barrels into the cellar space), and was likely part of the Longobardo castle’s external warehouses.
Everything about Terre del Principe seems similarly, charmingly small, and modestly adjusted only where absolutely necessary. The vineyards pergola training (a hold-over from the past, to protect the grapes from wild boar) is still in use, though modified slightly to reduce vigor. Production has recently been culled back to 20,000 bottles per year (“It’s higher quality,” notes Manuela, “and less work!”). And the wines, in turn, seem all the better for it…
Read the rest of this stuff »
One of the more endearingly maddening things about European wine classifications is that they try to lump location, in aspects that are increasingly specific, and “quality,” in ways that are often nebulous.
Over at MyNameIsBarbera.com, I take this dichotomy head-on, in my dime-store-philosphical way (not yet trademarked, but it might as well be at this point). Obviously, the focus of that piece is on the “quality pyramid” as it pertains specifically to Barbera in Asti and the Monferrato area, but the idea that the pyramid is more reflective of stylistic personality rather than core quality (in the I’m-good-therefore-you-are-bad sense) is, I think, something that plagues many of the most well-established wine regions not just in Northern Italy, but in all of Italy; and, arguably, all of Western Europe.
Pour a glass, have a read, and then we can argue in buzzed pseudo-philosophy about it all!
THE PUZZLE OF THE (BARBERA QUALITY) PYRAMID