Fear, Loathing, Dinners & Tasting: Barbera Vagabond Warrior
We are upstairs in Bellota's main function room. It is only days into the New Year, temperatures have been soaring past 30 degrees and beyond on a typical Melbourne day, and we are about to have wild boar pasta and red wine.....
Sometimes I feel rather punch drunk at how criminally underrated Barbera is. Perpetually living in the shadow of Nebbiolo, Barbera is finally seeing a bit of the limelight, with its boisterous acidity and luminous perfume, coaxed to its finest expression - it can be phenomenal. To truly nurse this variety to greatness, it requires a very serious approach and some of the region’s most famous producers (Vietti spring to mind) are again touting it as a fine wine proposition. In my opinion, the best wines should be consumed young as, along with their juicy fruit and high acid, they have a magnificent earthy feel imparted from the rugged terroir of d'Alba and d'Asti.
Barbera is best left in the hands of a specialist and Marchesi Alfieri are certainly that. Juicy, compulsive and unmistakably varietally sound, they make one of the most underappreciated Berberas in the region (which only compounds further why they reflect its perfect expression! The 2006 was the first ever wine that I bought a whole 6-pack of, and now I sit at a table with Christian who is about to take us though a few of his wines including the new 2013, bottled under screwcap especially for the Australian market.
We start, unusually with a 2006 pinot noir. To everybody’s surprise it is absolutely fabulous! (We then decide to import some of the current vintage which unfortunately turns out to be less so!). Moving on to the Barbera, we look at the 2012 under cork versus the 2013 under screwcap. My experience with this wine is that a year or so to settle brings the wine to its peak. The 2013 looks fresher, more vibrant and poised to be the best that they have ever produced. They make a serious cuvee called Alfieri which sees some wood aging. It has always been a profound expression of Barbera and we have a 2005 to taste but it is corked. A long an animated discussion ensues about cork v screwcap, but I mostly just drink my Barbera, ahhhhh La Tota!
When Barbera is this good it is peerless.