- Theresa Downs
Two More Great Red Wines From Piedmont To Try: Barbera and Dolcetto
Continuing our journey of Piedmont red wine varietals leads to Barbara and Dolcetto. Often overlooked for their more well-known and glamorous neighbors, Barolo and Barbaresco, Barbera, and Dolcetto wines are fuss worthy in their own right.
First off, let's concentrate on the wonders of Barbera. Grown throughout Piedmont, and for that matter, northern Italy ( the grape is the most widely planted in Piedmont), Barbera is considered one of the traditional grapes of the region. Again, like Barolo, this is a very old wine that dates back to the 13th century. Some of the best Barbera wines hail from Asti, part of the Monferrato region of Piedmont. One of the best areas for producing stellar Barbera is Nizza DOCG, located in this area.
Barbera is a mainstay in the Italian wine world. Thought of as the "people's wine" thanks to its easy drinking ability, it is considered one of the most accessible (read cheap) compared to the Barbaresco and Barolo. One of its greatest appeals is its versatility.
High acid and low tannins make Barbera easy to sip and, for the impatient, readily available for drinking without the long barrel time required for most Barolo and Barbaresco.
Barbera's appearance is deceiving. So inky dark to almost black, one would expect a wine that's so full-bodied it would give Barolo a run for its money. But Barbera has notes of strawberry and sour cherry reminiscent of much lighter-bodied wines. Barbera manages to taste both rich and light-bodied. The high acid in the wine almost makes it taste juicy. As mentioned before, Barbera is not usually oaked or put in oak barrels for any time. That's changing a bit as winemakers are experimenting with using riper fruit and oak barrels to create a more sophisticated, complex wine.
Now we come to the important stuff, what to eat with it! Well, here's what you wouldn't: shellfish wouldn't be bad, but it wouldn't be great, and probably fish, in general, wouldn't serve to complement the wine or food. What works well is dark meats like duck and white meats like roasted pork or braised chicken. Cheese with a bit of herbaceousness is equally pleasing. Pasta with meat ragus, such as rabbit, work exceptionally well too.
Next up is one of my favorite wines: Dolcetto.
The Langhe region of Piedmont boasts of the best examples of Dolcetto. (Remember, this area is also responsible for Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera). To understand this region, you have to understand the grape ripening hierarchy, which works sort of like a ladder. Dolcetto ripens first (before Barbera and Nebbiolo) and is the first wine to be released, the earliest to mature, and is (generally) the first wine served during meals. That is just one of the reasons Dolcetto is so beloved!
Another major reason for its popularity, Dolcetto is crafted in a simple easy-drinking style designed to be the everyday wine. Dolcetto wines are deep in color with fragrant grapey (not kidding), black fruit, ripe blackberry aromas, and a pleasant almond bitterness (yes, it is pleasant). Translated from Italian, the "pretty sweet one" refers to the grapes' sweetness, not the wine.
Dolcetto is a big fav with sommeliers because it works so well with various foods. With just the right amount of acid and tannins, it can perk up just about any type of meal. It pairs just as well with a grilled steak as with pizza. It's yummy with tomato-based pasta as well as simple charcuterie.
So, there you have it. Two more wines to add to your arsenal. These wines will pair beautifully with your holiday fare (try them with roasted spiced nuts)! Please do yourself a big favor, and put these wines on your shopping list, especially now since the holidays are almost upon us.