Tag Archives: Piedmont

Maraia Barbera del Monferrato

Cost: Average price $9.99

Where buy now: Costco

Grapes: Barbera

Region: Italy

Vintage: 2012

Maraia Barbera del Monferrato

What kind of liquid endorphin has got me on tenterhooks lately? It’s a few Italian wines that recently hit the shelves at Costco. Costco’s inventory turns over quickly so you’ll want to get in on my “skank” wine, a budget Sangiovese that’s stupid (and contagious) tasty for $6.99. You can read about it here http://bit.ly/1fYV4Dc/Cecchi Sangiovese

My most favoritist, though, is a Barbera del Monferrato. You may be familiar with Barbera d’Alba or d’Asti. Well, there is a third Barbera zone: Barbera del Monferrato. All three hail from the Piedmont region which is North Eastern Italy. (Remember the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino? That was in Piedmont.) Oddly enough, Barbera del Monferrato is the largest of all three zones and yet you don’t hear much about it. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I was one of those people.

I’ll tell you that I have a straight up Barbera fetish. There isn’t one that I haven’t enjoyed, though I’m more partial to Barbera d’Alba over Asti [much the same way my husband is partial to Barbara Eden vs. Barbara Streisand]. “They” (wine gods?) state Barberas from Alba and Asti are more robust where as the Monferrato is more aromatic and softer on your palate. I cannot tell you if it’s true, because I didn’t simultaneously sample Barberas from all three zones to test this theory. Why? Because I would have drank all three bottles and been in an alcohol induced coma. I love Barbera that fervently and have SOME sense of dignity. Well…

What I can tell you about this wine is that it’s an agreeable lil’ number. I enjoyed the rich red cherried plum flavors, it’s soft vanilla undertones and peppery tinge. It’s a touch more jammy than one would find in a Barbera- not so much with the earthy funk. Nevertheless, this would be a great wine to experiment with. I mean by tasting and/or pairing it. Don’t go wasting it by sploshing it on your wet and messy cakesitting fetish friends.

Araldica La Luciana Gavi

Cost: Average price $14

Where buy now: The Wine Thief $13.99

Grapes: Cortese

Region: Piedmont, Italy

Vintage: 2010

Araldica La Luciana Gavi

I’m not a slacker. An imbiber, yes, but not a slacker. My day job event planning for a major non-profit in town kept me away from writing a red or white review last week. (Note: not drinking, just writing.) Please accept my heart-healthy apologies.

To make it up to you, let’s kick off the weekend with a white wine that is sure to tickle your fancy parts. This week’s white belongs to Cortese [kor TAY zay] di Gavi, aka “Gavi”. It’s a white wine produced in the Piedmont, North West region of Italy. Cortese grapes live along sloping vineyards close to Italy’s Ligurian region [Mediterranean Coastal area], where Genova resides (in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Well, he didn’t set sail from Genova, but Cristoforo Colombo was from this area)

Why does any of this matter? Because the grapes are going to get hit with wafting, salty seaside breezes influencing their flavor with hints of tartness and a slight dryness.

Don’t get turned off by what I just said, this is a terrific Summer wine that’s just begging to be paired with grilled fish, or my favorite, pesto. Think about it: wine that is made near the seaside is probably best had with frutta di mare (literally translated, fruit of the sea, or seafood). Plus, “real” pesto hails from Genova, so it’s not coincidentally, a perfect marriage.

This white wine is pale straw in color with scents of citrus fruits (think lemons & limes). It isn’t an overly fruity wine, but has a hint of minerality and mild acidic tartness that snaps back. Not strongly-just enough to give the wine some character. It’s lively but in a laid back sort of way. If you are a Pinot Grigio fan, give this a try and I think you may have a new favorite. It’s aged in stainless steel tanks which lends itself to a refreshingly smooth lemony taste and dare I say it transports you to the Mediterranean shores of Italy.  I’m imagining laying out on one of those rented beach chaise lounges. Uninhibited, I take my top off and let the strong Mediterranean sun bake me golden. (Nevermind that I’m a shy, pale redhead; that sun would destroy me.)

So, let’s talk food pairing. I’d soooo dig this with sautéed calamari. Scusi in St. Paul has a nice dish of sautéed calamari that would pair well. This wine is so perfect for pasta with pesto, I cannot stand it. The lemony, refreshing dry-sweetness balances the smooth, herby, garlicy pesto sauce. Mmmmhmmmm.

If you don’t grow your own basil, SHAME ON YOU! But, perhaps I’ll forgive you if you pick some up this Spring and use it to make your own pesto. Throw it in ice cube trays and freeze it for a rainy day. It’s pretty easy and it tastes so much better than pesto from a jar. If you’re real short on time, though, I really like Pesto alla Genova carried at Lund’s & Byerly’s stores. It’s a teeny-tiny jar for a whole lot of money but often it’s on sale for $8.

Here’s the quick, down & dirty pesto method:

A couple BIG handfuls of fresh basil leaves

A handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted

A couple garlic cloves

A small hunk of Parmigiano cheese

Put it all in a blender and slowly drizzle in olive oil until you get a consistency you like.

Toss it over your favorite pasta and grate some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano on top. Pour yourself a glass of Gavi and you have a real meal. So simple, but the flavors will knock your socks off. No restaurant can give you that satisfaction, and we’ll just forget about last week.

Giacomo Vico Langhe Rosso

Cost: Average price $13.99

Where buy now: Surdyks – $10.97

Grapes: 70% Barbera, 30% Nebbiolo

Region: Piedmont, Italy

Vintage: 2009

Giacomo Vico Langhe Rosso
Giacomo Vico Langhe Rosso

The tall, dashingly handsome Italian wine rep at the store made it impossible to pass by with only a glance. Right dapper in his pin stripe suit, well-coifed hair and slight Mediterranean tan, I was completely entranced as he regaled with details about the Giacomo Vico vineyard and their wine. He even smelled like he came straight from a Versace fashion shoot: cypress, smoke, spice and everything nice. As I stood with five or six other patrons, the crowded store made it difficult for our little gathering to remain in one place. When we shifted around to make room for other patrons, I would stealthily lean in to catch a hint of his aura. I know that’s downright creepy, but I was addicted. Oh, how I wanted to channel my inner Sophia Loren!

With his heavy, dripping accent he described this Langhe Rosso blend. The Giacomo Vico vineyards are in a hilly area, South of Torino and East of the River Tanaro in Piedmont, called “Roero”. Barbara and Nebbiolo wines are created separately, then fused into barrels to age. This blend creates a smooth, slightly tannic but not too dry libation. The deep color and smooth nature is evident as it is 70% Barbera. The slightly tannic, woody dry flavor is due to the Nebbiolo. I figured I’d like this wine since I love Barbera, and the introduction of Nebbiolo gives it a little bit drier quality. It has enough character to stand alone- perfect for sipping and gossiping with girlfriends (or Italian boyfriends). It is not, however, too strong to drink alongside spaghetti and meatballs or a grilled hamburger. Ooh, or pick up some truffle cheese at Trader Joes- that mushroomy smokiness would gracefully bring out the Nebbiolo flavor.

When this romance novel of a gentleman finishes telling us all the details, I stand there like a deer in headlights. I don’t speak. I can’t speak! I merely extend my hand hoping he will take it, whisk me away to his villa, perhaps speeding on windy hills in his convertible Alpha Romeo. He smiled and asked if I’d like a bottle. As I mutely nod, he places one in my desperate, outreached hand and moves on to the next patron.