My Dinner with Barbera
My recent foray into Italian wines has been a revelation with respect to the difference between ‘good wine,’ and ‘good- food wine;’ wines that drink well and those that ‘eat well.’ The Italians are masters of food wines, wines that can transform and morph into the perfect companion to whatever is on your plate. If you can get close, the bottle will take you the rest of the way, making even a so-so choice a pleasant experience. I kinda botched this one but Barbera bailed me out.
I gave Nate, my 3 year old son, a meat tenderizer and let him take care of the veal. I then baked the scallopines in a half pound of fresh shitake mushrooms, garlic and basil. A semi-successful attempt at home-made gnocchi was the side dish with a classic ceasar to round out the table.
Barbera d’Asti 2001, La Tota, Marchesi Alfieri ($26..saq)
I am a novice when it comes to this Piedmont grape. However, the majority of Italian wines are not ‘fruit driven,’ so I was a bit shocked by the rich notes of blackberries and other dark fruits. Super silky tannins with a just a hint of vanilla, I found it very linear, almost meaty, and lacking any of those sexy earthy notes that characterize so much of Italian wine, and what I wanted to go with my mushroom laden veal. But as we ate, the wine forgave, and subtle notes of spices came through the brin of fruit. It was still better on it’s own, and maybe made for pasta, but it did it’s best to take a backseat to the food; a decent match but not fantastic. I was left wondering wether this was typical barbera... the investigation has begun.