Tag Archives: Piedmont

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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Ricossa Barbaresco 2009

Ricossa Barbaresco 2009

Italy, $22

In wine as in life, things that are usually too good to be true should be avoided. (That 75-percent-off beef tenderloin comes to mind.) So when I saw a $22 bottle of Barbaresco, I was wary. The famed Piedmont wine normally starts at about $50, and sublime expressions are regularly triple that. The noble nebbiolo grape just doesn’t do well when grown in the quantities needed to make a $22 of wine. But damned if this bottle wasn’t half bad, and frankly a lot more interesting that many bottles at the same price range. You have some of the lovely supple leather and dried herb and fruit notes of a classic barbaresco, and if the concentration is a little lacking, well, think about those extra $20s in your wallet.

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