Tag Archives: Barbera

Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera


Italy, $15

It took me a little while to come around to Piedmont. The wines were difficult to understand, generally pricey and didn’t seem to care one bit whether I liked them or not. But like the cute loner in physics class, the truth is once I took the time to get to know them they were infinitely more interesting than the bland, popular wines/kids. For starters, while nebbiolo-based big boys—Barolo and Barbaresco—are pricey, the area serves up some other grapes that are easier on the pocketbook but heavy on the personality. There’s the wonderful Dolcetto and the even better Barbera. Barbera has the high acid of nebbiolo but very few of its tannins, which means it goes well with food (it would be amazing with the ragu recipe we’re running this week) but doesn’t need much in the way of aging. I feel I always get the subtle nod of approval from somms when I order Barbera, probably because they don’t have the money to drink Barolo on Wednesdays either. All of these attributes are present in this week’s wine, a well-made and well-priced bottle from the behemoth producer Fontanafredda. I was turned onto this wine from Sebastien Le Goff who is not only the director of service at Cactus Club but in possession of one of the scariest, most astute palettes I know. He probably does drink Barolo on Wednesday—but he also drinks this Barbera.

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Ca Du Rabaja Barbera D’Alba 2009

Ca Du Rabaja Barbera D'Alba 2009

 Italy, $26

There are two types of wine lists out there: the ones that trot out all the usual suspects and welcome you with a list of old faves (Caymus Conundrum—hooray!). Then there are the kinds where you wonder where the heck they get their wines, because you don’t recognize half the names. It’s this latter category that are often in the hands of a passionate, sommelier—like Lucais Syme at La Quercia, L’Officio and La Pentola de la Quercia in Vancouver. Last week, the last thing I thought wanted to order was $50 barbera, even from a great producer like Ca Du Rabaja, but after one sip I realized that, in fact, this was exactly the wine I wanted. It was concentrated and with a strawberry, balsamic and pepper profile that I loved. And it proved the adage you’re better buying a great expression of mid-level wine (like barbera) than a weak expression of a great wine (like nebbiolo). (Yew in the Four Season’s also has this wine on their list (for a bit more $$$).

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