Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: This Italian red from Piedmont is a standoutBy JIM BEAUREGARD March 20. 2018 11:05PM
Let’s tarry for a moment in Piedmont, in northwest Italy, from which my mother’s side of the family hails. There are different wines in every region of Italy and part of the fun of visiting Italy is sampling local fare.
If you happen to be in Piedmont, here is one vineyard you might want to consider.
Villa Sparina has been importing wine to the United States for some time. For many years, though, its best-known wine has been a white — Villa Sparina Gavi — which is delicious and refreshing.
But I want to tell you about one of their red wines, which I picked up at Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop in Manchester last week.
First, a word about the Barbera grape. It is a red grape widely planted across northern Italy, some 50,000 acres or so.
It doesn’t appear to be genetically related to any of the other major grapes, suggesting it was a relative newcomer to the area, though no one is quite sure when it arrived.
It takes a bit longer than other grapes in the region to ripen, and so the harvest is a bit later, typically in October. It has a lot of natural acidity, which adds to its popularity in hot climates.
It is also known to be grown in Australia and Argentina, and there are Barbera vineyards in California as well.
Monferato, from whence this bottle hails, is a DOC region of Italy to the east of the major city of Turin. It is a region known for its sparkling wines — you’ve probably heard of Barbera d’Asti.
Villa Sparina has a history dating back to the 1700s, though its current incarnation was founded by the Moccagatta family in the 1970s. The estate covers about 200 acres, with about 60 acres for the vineyard. Those 60 acres are set about a 1,000 feet above sea level, with south to southwest facing slopes of clay of limestone. The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of October and fermented in stainless steel tanks. They are then partially aged in oak barrels before being bottled.
Villa Sparina Barbera del Monferato, 2015, 13.5% alcohol, Piedmont, Italy, $18.95. From the Barbera grape, this is a red wine, purple in color with a medium-depth core. It has a clean nose of medium intensity that brings many red fruits including strawberry and red plum at the outset. The palate is dry, and of medium-plus acidity, with medium tannin and medium, well-integrated alcohol, medium body and medium-plus flavor intensity of red plum, raspberry, strawberry and blackberry, as well as some oak-related flavors such as vanilla and charred wood. It is not an overly intense one, but extremely well-balanced and would pair well with lighter red meats, chicken and red sauce and for that matter, chicken in a lemon butter sauce to bring out the acidity, which the wine would match nicely. And, of course, pizza. Very good, it’s medium to long finish and ready to drink now.
Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com