Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Bevy of Barbera

Last August the local 'special orders' gang at Courrier Vinicole had a special Italian order. Included in this offering were the usual suspects - Barolos and Barbarescos - but they also had an excellent selection of Barberas and Dolcettos. I find that Barbera and Dolcetto offerings are rather limited, so I took advantage of the offer and ordered 24 bottles of wine.

Unfortunately, my cellar is 'bursting at the seams', with more than 500 bottles residing in a cellar designed for 360 bottles. Needless to say, one must step carefully when entering...

With such a large influx of Barbera, and a limited storage capacity, the evening called for Piedmont, regardless of what was on the menu. To take on this evening's Pork Roast with Mushroom gravy, I had two renowned Piemontese Barberas from the same vintage:

2001 Vietti Barbera d'Asti "La Crena"
2001 Giovanni Corino Barbera d'Alba "Pozzo"

These wines were decanted, and tasted and scored head to head, blinded.

I tasted the Vietti La Crena first. The nose began with very strong oaky, cedary and earthy aromas. With some oxygen the wine turned very nutty - hazelnuts and almonds - backed by prunes and flinty, smokey aromas. Very dry, this medium-bodied wine packed a powerful tannic punch, with a surprising amount of fruit given the limited scents of fruit on the nose. La Crena had a soft mouthfeel, but it was angular and 'rustic'. Passionate and fun, but unrefined, this wine may need some more time to develop.
Score: 16/20
Cost: C$38

The Corino Pozzo smelled fruitier, with a more judicious use of oak. Very strong coffee and berry aromas, with caramel, cloves, plus some meaty and earthy scents. Medium- to full-bodied with big strawberry fruit and very nice balance with the acidity and tannins. Smoother than the La Crena, yet interesting and powerful at the same time. This wine should improve.
Score: 17/20
Cost: C$33

While my notes highlight the differences, the wines were more similar than they were different, converging over the evening - the fruit in the La Crena showed up a little later, while the Pozzo later showed more oak than at the beginning. Very good wines, given the price differential you have to give the nod to the Corino Pozzo.

Look for a future post, "A Dose of Dolcetto", as I conduct the same experiment to whittle down the rest of my Piemontese surplus. Cheers!


David said...

sounds good, I enjoy Barbera though they are hard to find!

Joe said...

Yeah, I only seem to be able to find 'em on special order. Looks like I am set for a while...

Brooklynguy said...

Welcome back Joe! Interesting bit on the Barberas. I know almost nothing about 'em, but I've been emaning to experiment. I responded to oyur comment about Chambers Street, by the way. If you go there, make sure to pick up a bottlt of Pian del Ciampolo or Montevertine - my favorite Italian wines so far. Are they available in Canada?

Joe said...

I saw the Montevertine (very limited), but no the Ciampolo. However, I will probably grab some Oregon pinot if I do buy anything, as we have very limited selection of that stuff here. Suggestions?

Sonadora said...

I can't even imagine having 500 bottles of wine!! We had just shy of 200 when we returned from Sonoma this summer and I had no idea where to put those!!!! Thankfully we are down to a more manageable 90ish at the moment.

Both of these wines sound like interesting bottles. I don't have much experience with Barbera, so I'm always interested to read what's going on with other people's tasting!

Brooklynguy said...

Chambers is not the place i think of when shopping for Oregon pinot. I think they have a few bottles right now, mostly penner ash or patricia green, neither of which are favorites of mine. just ask on the pian del ciampolo - it's $21 and it's great. for oregon pinot in NYC I would try Burgundy wine company on 26th street or if you're only near chambers street, try the store on west broadway and franklin - they sell cristom's jeffersom vineyard wine, which is really good.

Joe said...

Hi Sonadora. 500 is surprisingly compact 8'x4'x6'. Barbera can be a great experience, or a horrible one. Best to ask your shopkeep for recommendations, but the wine pairs wonderfully with Italian food.
BKG - I think I will try that Burgundy store - I am actually staying midtown, so that is easier for me. Besides, I can probably find that Italian, but Oregon Pinot - fuhgedaboutit. Will check Chambers on a future trip.

Joe said...

BKG - I went to the Burgundy Wine Co. Nice store. I couldn't remember what you recommended, but I did end up with a Cristom Marjorie Vineyard. They also had the patty green and penner ash, but overall not much from Oregon. I am now on their email list. I will be back in two weeks - will go to Chambers then. Cheers!