20061214

Marchesi Alfieri La Tota 2004, aka "Big Babs"

la tota marchesi alfieri barbera d'asti
And... Weingolb revealed!

It'll be a strange week in December. There's a chill in the air yet the good ol' standby of this site, of my coterie of friends, of my very own kitchen -- red wine -- is on the backburner. After tomorrow, I will have not opened a bottle of red wine in a week. (Like I said in my post on my favourite new café, my appetite for red wine has all but totally disappeared.)

I'm enjoying white wines in red's place and that adds to my surprise. After all, Christmas is only ten days away. And while there's no rules against a white wine Yuletide season, it does strike me as an odd time to take the vacation I'm taking.

If redlessness describes my drinking these days, why post now about Barbera you ask? The answer is that my wine reviews come from notes lovingly aged in my cave for one full month. There. The truth's out. The wines you see reviewed on this site (not including the wines in WBW events) were uncorked the month prior. I had the wine in today's post on November 14. (Technically I had it on the 13th and 14th. My remarks on it didn't actually change much from the one day to the next. They often do.)

I'M PUTTING THE "RE" BACK IN WINE REVIEWS

OK, so why, you ask? For the year I've been posting my tasting notes on this site, I've routinely found that the energy required to take accurate and thorough notes didn't bode well for the effort I wanted to put into further research, presentation and style. Yes I put hard work into my wine reviews. Can't you feel the 30 days of polish applied to my posts?

So call me Wait-a-while Weingolb (and while we're at it, Weingolb is "blog" spelled backwards and appended to the German word for wine, in case you were wondering).

Onward to the unveiling of Marchesi Alfieri La Tota Barbera D'Asti 2004, a wine that's known in these parts as Big Babs. Check out Alfieri's online profile of it, which in most years is their top cuvée.

Before I reveal the secrets that lie behind the cork, a penetrating look at the label. "La Tota" means signorina in the Piedmontese dialect, or so say the winemakers. And that in English means miss, as in Miss Congeniality. I know. That was the first (and last) Italian title to a Weingolb wine review.

In any case, this wine is a hit, far from a miss, though I was a bit perplexed in drinking such a serious treatment for Barbera, a grape that usually is rendered into simple, quaffable and frequently cheap expressions.

THE JUICY BITS ON "BIG BABS" START HERE

The colour is a very bright magenta and there is a tad of a green aroma to it when you swirl it around your glass. La Tota would easily age perfectly well if you laid it down for a few years.

My first reaction was that this wine was very acidic, very Barbera. I found no trace of oak (though the profile page strangely alludes to it). An oak presence, I would hazard, is quite a nice thing for a Barbera. It seems to me that Barbera -- a rustic, often abrasive, frequently light-bodied varietal -- stands to gain a lot from oak's softening tannins and smoothing vanilla.

If this wine is missing wood, it is certainly not short on extraction and integration, which are really quite fantastic here. I've never had a Barbera like this one. It has medium body and medium length. It's even got a medium level of fruit, but mostly raspberry that has shades of mocha and spice. Its pucker makes for a less-than-great pairing if you've got hearty grilled foods like I had the night I sampled it.

BIG BABS LIKES "LITTLE" FOODS

Instead, try it with cold cuts, white meats, even fish in a fennel-infused relish. I might even like to try it with spice-box dishes like gnocchi made with no shortage of nutmeg or my favourite flourless pasta, a spinach-and-sage malfatti.

Mmmm... Marchesi Alfieri's La Tota Malfatti Night -- sign me up. My appetite for red wine is coming back again as I type this.

San Martino, Alfieri, Italia. 14%.

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