Vigneti Massa Barbera Cru Monleale (2006)
When I was first exposed to Barbera, I often found it to be too darn acidic. Of course, with most Italian red varieties, acidity is of the utmost importance, including, obviously, Barbera, but also Dolcetto and Sangiovese, as well as others. Acidity is what makes these wines so versatile with food. It took me a while to understand, however, why the wine felt too mouth-puckering, especially on its own, but over time I have learned to appreciate (and crave!) this food friendliness and versatility. Barbera, of course, can vary quite widely – though many are firmly acidic, others are supple and smooth.
All that said, you’ll understand why my interest was initially peaked when I read this part of the winemaker’s notes on the 2006 Vigneti Massa Barbera Cru Monleale: “the grape’s high acidity is honed into a tight-knitted complexity.” I adore the rustic quality of Piedmontese wines, and the idea of a complex, contained Barbera sold me here.
There’s certainly firm acidity, but as long as food is involved, it is brilliant. Though Barbera is from Northwest Italy (where tomatoes are not used as commonly as in the south), Barbera actually pairs beautifully with tomato-based sauces. We drank this with a tomato and (smoked) pork ragu, which was perfect; the acidity from the wine was great foil to the the sweetness and acidity of the tomato, and the slight smokyness of the wine brought out the smoke in the pork. I must say that I didn’t enjoy the wine as much once I was done eating (which encouraged me to get another portion of pasta!) Lastly, the slight oak influence added just a touch of spice and contributed to the supple mouthfeel.
Lovely aroma is more savory than fruity. Mushrooms (especially right away), tar, and a bit of smoke. Palate features ripe red fruits; strawberry, cherry and raspberry. Notes of vanilla and spice on the finish. Oak is wonderfully integrated – plays a role but but does not overwhelm, plus adds creaminess to the body. Lots of acidity makes this a wonderful food wine (paired amazingly with a tomato-based pork ragu). Maybe the best Barbera I’ve had, and awesome QPR at $16 – heading out to get some more this week!