The Piedmont region in Italy (Piemont – pay-MAHN-tay – in Italian) is at the base of the Alps in the natural boundary between Italy, Switzerland and France. Red wines are the favorites here and grapes include Dolcetto and Barbera.
Our recent Italian wine pairing dinner featued two red grapes that often elude the spotlight. Dolcetto is sometimes called the “bridesmaid” of wines because Nebbiolo and Sangiovese garner the lion’s share of attention from Italian wine lovers. Barbera is a grape that is so widely planted that in some parts of the world the low quality has tarnished its image.
Green Dragon, our culinary expert, prepared a delicious Spinach and Ricotta Conchiglie entree to pair with our two wines. This is a stuffed pasta shell dish. We were featuring Azienda Agricola Brangero 2012, Dolcetto di Diano D’Alba “San Rabino Soprano” and Cantina Roagna Giuseppe di Marco 2014 Barbera d’Alba Roero.
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We started with the Barbera from the Alba region. Alba is a city of about 30,000 people nestled between the better known wine regions of Barola and Barberesco. The city is known not only for its red wine, but also its white truffles.
The Roagna winery owes its current focus to a tragedy. Until the early 1980s, all the wine produced was sold in bulk to other producers. The family’s herd of livestock was wiped out by mad cow disease and the family decided to turn their wine production into a commercially viable venture.
The Roagna Barbera is a juicy wine, flowing with rich flavors. This was a sumptious pairing with our pasta. The wine is soft without heavy tannins. It offers a sour cherry flavor that beckons you to have more. It’s a loveable wine.
The 2012 Dolcetto is produced by the Brangero winery. Brangero is a small, family-run farm in the small commune of Diano d’Alba. Only Dolcetto is produced in Diano d’Alba.
We’ve been told that bringing a bottle of Dolcetto when invited to friend’s house in Italy signals “we are equals” and I don’t need to impress. We found the 2012 Brangero Dolcetto to be a welcome guest at our table.
The Dolcetto has more complexity than the Barbera. The tannins and structure are more evident. There is a dusty flavor of earth. It evolves nicely in the glass or better yet with some decanting. Concentrated flavors of black cherry are then the reward.
This was a dynamite pair of wines from Italy. In addition to being outstanding on their own merits, they pair beautifully with food. Both are sub-$20 wines and worth seeking on the shelves.
Full disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.