Summer: The Italian job

Packing up the wine for the summer beach holiday was easy—a case of Riesling from Germany and Alsace, another of Beaujolais 2009, a few bottles of Chablis for serious fish dinners, a couple of Champagne, and a serious red for the thick steaks we get from the local butcher in Cornwall.      
       The red was a no-brainer for us, but a surprise to our guests: Vajra Barbera d’Alba 2008, one of our favourite wines. The usual match for steak, especially grilled, is Cabernet or Bordeaux, I know. Surely not for flavour, though, with those tannins and alcohol rasping against the succulence of the meat? Barbera generally has a better balance of acidity and astringency, and a more amenable mix of fruit overtones, for caramelized, juicy steak, and its restraint doesn’t tire out your palate. No snob value, of course, but a better meal in the end.
       I first visited Vajra 23 years ago, right after they’d finished building the new winery, and the first thing that impressed me about the wines was their balance and restraint. The late ‘80s and early ‘90s saw a glut of French oak, after the ebullient Giacomo Bologna won acclaim for his woody barrique Barberas, so Vajra’s, made in large Slavonian oak barrels (as they still are) stood out as clear expressions of the grape and the soil. If anything, the wines have gotten even better. It doesn’t say so on the label, but the grapes are farmed organically. I’m not surprised.

No comments:

copyright 2010-2017 by Brian St. Pierre