Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme (2010)

michele-chiarlo-barbera-d'asti-le-ormeI was sitting in the dark, listening to Sinatra*, nursing my last half-glass of the Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti 2010, sniffing more than sipping, when it hit me. This glass of wine smells (and tastes!) like my Sunday gravy. (For those of you who live outside the Philly area, that means tomato sauce).

It’s uncanny. And all there. The vibrant bright acidity of the red tomato fruit. The punch of the garlic. The herbaceousness of the basil. And the salty, slightly funky cheese. This wine is tomato ragu in a glass.

What’s funny about Barbera is that, despite its perfection as a pairing with tomato sauce, it hails from Piedmont, an area where tomatoes really are not part of the culture. Sure, today they exist to some extent in the cuisine, but not like they do in Southern Italy. And perhaps those Southern Italians are more likely to reach for an Aglianico, or a Piedirosso, or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo when they throw tomato sauce on pasta.

Wine experts, even, might suggest you go with a mushroom-based dish – something like chicken marsala, perhaps – with Barbera. And they won’t be wrong – after all, Piedmont is mushroom country. But they won’t exactly be right either, because, for me, Barbera is at its very best when paired with tomato sauce. The vibrant acidity of both, the fact that the best Barberas – at least the traditional-style ones that aren’t made to taste like SuperTuscans – have so much in common with the ubiquitous Italian dish.

So, go buy some Barbera and eat some gravy. You’ll thank me later.

Tasting Notes:

Nose bursts with freshness – ripe tomato, basil, garlic and aged cheese. Palate continues the trend, like drinking tomato ragu. Pair it with such. Absolutely delicious and a wonderfully good QPR.

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* actually it was Matt Pond PA, but Sinatra sounded more romantic.

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