The old saying two sides of the same coin all to often applies to wines these days. Diversity is drowned in the head on pursuit of Points. We can’t really criticize wineries for seeking financial success. I know that it’s strange to think of an elite winery having to make a buck in these days of multi-multi-million dollar wine temples, but it’s a fact that some producers actually have to turn a profit to stay in business. Blaming them for Point hunting seems a bit disingenuous when both the trade and wine buyers are so Point drunk.
Recently I tasted three wines from the same variety and region. Each could not have been more wonderful, lovely or good at what they were trying to be. Each winemaker had a different goal and achieved it. To somehow rank these wines is silly as they were made with different visions, but each accomplishes that vision with equal dexterity. Awarding these wines Pointless Points only confuses the consumer because to every wine there is a season – Turn, Turn, Turn.
Here were three barbera wines from the Piemonte region of Northwestern Italy that have little in common except variety and the fact that when served with the right meal they’re almost perfect.
2006 Vietti Barbera d’Alba, Scarrone – Scarrone is barbera presented as a great wine. From old vines planted in a vineyard that by all rights should be planted in nebbiolo for Barolo, winemaker Luca Currado crafts a powerful, magnificent barbera that ages beautifully. That same evening we tasted the 2006 we had a 1996 Scarrone that had aged into a graceful beauty. Young Scarrone is deeply colored, concentrated, richly fruity and powerful. A wine that always gets big Points – how could it not?
2006 Brovia Barbera d'Alba DOC Sori Del Drago – Brickish with touches of brown in color, the wonderfully traditional Brovia winery has made a high strung graceful beauty. With an aromatic complexity that will please Barolo traditionalists, this firm, structured zesty wine is a wonder with classic Northern Italian dishes – I’m thinking Ossobucco Milanese. This wine is all about complexity, structure and aromatics and power. Points are not what it’s about. I feel this is an exceptional barbera.
2007 Fontanafredda, Barbera Piemonte, Briccotondo – Purple, fresh and lip-smacking good. A bright, fresh, fruity modern wine that still tips its hat to real barbera character. The nice acid pucker underneath the veneer of sweet dark fruit reminds you that this is indeed an Italian wine. I’m buying this for ten bucks at Cost Plus and I can think of few better values in a wine at this price. Most wines at this price range have a innocuous jammy sweet fruitiness that quickly bores. There is nothing boring about this fun and delicious wine. Eating pizza or simple spaghetti con pomodoro? This is your wine.
To rank these three lovely wines is Pointless as each served with the right foods will appropriately show their charms. Appropriate is the right word and that responsibility lies with the consumer because if you follow Points, you’ll be led astray at the table.