Tag Archives: Italy

Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera

fontanafredda-briccotondo

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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2008 Produttori Del Barbaresco

produttori-del-barbarescoItaly, $43

I was in Trader Joe’s in Southern California just before Christmas and I saw a bottle of Barbaresco for $9.99. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Barbaresco for less than $20 and even though I had never heard of the producer and the foil on the cap looked super cheap I bought it. It was both the worst Barbaresco I’ve had and still a pretty awesome deal—I’d totally buy it again because the confluence of the Nebbiolo grape and the soil of Piedmont is one of the great duo in all of wineopolis. If you want a good laugh roll into your local liquor store and state your looking for a Barbaresco for under $10 and look at their reaction. But just because we don’t get the bottom of the barrel doesn’t mean we don’t have some relatively good deals. Over the holidays I had two bottles from the rock solid producer Produttori del Barbaresco, which is actually a large winegrowers co-operative that cranks out about half a million bottles a year. That’s nothing compared to Yellowtail but that’s massive by Piedmont standards and that level helps keep the price low. For $43 you get some really classic Nebbiolo— an earthy wine with some tar and black cherries and what can only be called a seductive, sexy nose. It’s too young by a solid measure— I decanted for 3-4 hours before consuming and the wine opened up nicely

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Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Badiola 2010

Niepoort Dialogo Branco Douro 2011

Italy, $20

Like everyone else, I go through wine phases where I get hooked on a certain grape or region and ride it until I get bored. Well, I’ve been on a Chianti kick for about 16 months and every time I think it’s time to switch gears I run into a wine like this smoking deal for Mazzei that has me fall in love all over again.

It’s the Manny Pacquiao of wines, powerful without being overly heavy, with waves of dark cherry and dried cranberry. At 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon it is technically a super-Tuscan, not a Chianti, so maybe I am expanding my horizons a bit—though its big brother, the Fonterutoli Chianti Classico, is also amazing. And if you love the point scores, our pals at the Wine Spectator gave it 92 of ‘em.

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