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A Hybrid Wine for Any Season

by Anthony Lynch

2018 Barbera d’Alba Superiore

A. & G. Fantino   Italy   |   Piedmont   |  Barbera d’Alba


The bitter cold of winter had crept into the depths of the Piemontese cellars by the time I visited Alessandro and Gian Natale Fantino in their Monforte d’Alba cantina last December. As Gian Natale splashed frigid tastes of perfumed, deep crimson liquid into my glass, I couldn’t help but to think ahead to the toasty supper that awaited me, certainly featuring a heaping portion of hearty pasta to warm the heart and soul.
     But first, we had business to attend to. After an impressive flight of Baroli that made my hankering for pasta all the more palpable, Gianni climbed down from another tank and released a final dark nectar into my outstretched glass.
     “Barbera,” he said softly, his voice echoing throughout the damp stone chamber.
     The juice swished around rhythmically as I swirled, releasing bold aromas of licorice and ripe black fruits. Upon taking a sip, I felt a satisfying, cushiony warmth, the wine’s broad texture coating my palate and warming my bones like a big poofy jacket. It was just the ticket for a chilly December day, and would come in quite handy when that ragù-covered pasta would finally be mine.

. . .

Fast-forward to present day. A balmy autumn evening in California has made the freezing northern Italian winter no more than a distant memory. Late-season tomatoes are still abundant, and other summer vegetables give this October day a decidedly estival feel. I uncork the Fantino brothers’ Barbera, freshly arrived from overseas. Today, it serves a different purpose than it did back in December, but it steps into that role seamlessly. The wine’s richness of flavor is offset by lively fruit and refreshing acidity. While full-bodied, its gentle tannins barely make an impact as it glides effortlessly over the palate. It could even benefit from a slight chill. Months after first tasting it, the Fantinos’ Barbera is as comforting, appetizing, and seasonally appropriate as ever.


More from this Producer or Region

About Piedmont

map of Piedmont

Kermit’s love affair with the great reds of Piemonte dates back to the early days of his career: the very first container he imported from Italy, in fact, featured legendary 1971 and 1974 Barolos from Vietti and Aldo Conterno. Regular visits since then have seen our portfolio grow to now twelve Piemontesi estates, with a strong focus on the rolling hills of the Langhe.

Nebbiolo rules these majestic, vine-covered marl slopes, giving Italy’s most mystifyingly complex, nuanced, and age-worthy reds. When crafted via traditional production methods—long macerations and extensive aging in enormous oak botti—the powerful, yet incredibly refined Barolos and Barbarescos provide haunting aromatics of tar, raspberry, incense, tea, roses, and more. At times austere in their youth but well worth the wait, they pair beautifully with the hearty local cuisine starring veal in many forms, braised beef, pastas like tajarin and agnolotti, and of course, Alba’s famous white truffles.

Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Piemonte’s climate is continental, with baking hot summers and cold winters. Nebbiolo is only part of the story here: juicy, fruity Barberas and Dolcettos represent the bread and butter throughout the region, and other native grapes like Freisa, Croatina, and the white Arneis are also noteworthy. Value abounds in the Monferrato, while Alto Piemonte also has its share of thrills to provide.

Every corner of Piemonte is rich with tradition, especially when wine is concerned. It’s no wonder we have been singing the region’s praises for over forty years.

More from Piedmont or Italy

2018 Monferrato Rosso

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2015 Barolo “Gianetto”

Guido Porro  Italy  |  Piedmont  |  Barolo


2019 Barbera d’Alba “Vigna Santa Caterina”

Guido Porro  Italy  |  Piedmont  |  Barbera d’Alba


2019 Dolcetto d’Alba “V. Pari”

Guido Porro  Italy  |  Piedmont  |  Dolcetto d’Alba


2015 Barolo “Vigna Lazzairasco”

Guido Porro  Italy  |  Piedmont  |  Barolo


2015 Barolo “Serradenari”

Giulia Negri  Italy  |  Piedmont  |  Barolo


2018 Dolcetto di Diano d‘Alba “Sörì Cristina”

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When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:

1. Big wines do not age better than light wine.
2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration.
3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them.
4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would.
5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.

Inspiring Thirst, page 174

Kermit once said...

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