2021 Michele Chiarlo Palás Barbera d’Asti

The 2019 was such a good, straightforward bright and light crunchy fruit effort. This new vintage is even better. First day and it looked as simply delicious as the 2019 but given 24 hours of oxygen and there’s good indication of how 2021 may justify the early praise. Such a pretty red purple colour in appearance and flavour if you can taste colours? Freshly squished berries, bramble jelly, wine gums and that sort of gently caramelised jam Barbera brings to mind. Not much tannin but a whoosh of tart and ripe acidity cleans out the mouth and leaves it watering for more. Such a good foil for pizza that it’s far too easy to eat and drink and repeat till it’s all gone. Simple pleasure indeed.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $19 in a Murphy’s six.

91 points.

Of the others in this month’s Murphy trials….

2019 Cantina di Montalcino Rosso di Montalcino

Volcanic amount of sulphury reduction that didn’t really let go over two days. Underneath the smoke and bitter swell there’s some good acidity and Sangio tannin but it would have been good to actually taste it

14% alcohol. Diam. $26.60

87 points.

2018 Guillaume Gonnet Monsieur Grenache VdT

Oh dear, this is what happens when a lot of H2S turns into mercaptan. Filthy and undrinkable.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $13 member’s special.


2020 Michele Chiarlo Palás Barbera d’Asti

It’s been a long and unexpected hiatus in a blathering on about wine. Old age could be blamed. Spending time watching the last grains drop through the hourglass and battling the cardiac horrors a declining body brings seems to have squashed the enthusiasm and encouraged some lazy pleasure. This bottle of Barbera jogged memories of tasting Italians before a fashion for power and climate change encouraged slippery ripeness. Times when a lot of Italian wine seemed out of whack in terms of tannin and acid when tasted away from the meal table. Crisp, very fresh and just ripe fruit bounces here on some bristling acidity. Too puckering until it’s sluiced through after some pasta. Then it all makes sense. Bright, clean and delicious cherry fruit, just medium weight at best, shines as that acidity leaves a craving for oily garlic scented goodness. Just a brush of ripe, skin tannin to settle. Fermented grapes to help good food go down. Nice lightweight bottle too. Nothing to boast about, just enjoy.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $19.00 Dan Murphy direct import.

90 points.

2019 Crissante Alessandria Barbera d’Alba

The 2018 was so good that when this 2019 appeared on a local online auction site, difficult not to bid. Writing about the lovely 2018, I was completely wrong to think the maker’s name was one of those family name first Italian formals, in fact it’s the two family names involved. Research is a useful thing for those who think they know of which they write. Anyway, this is just pure and delicious. Like falling face first into an Italian market fruit stall in late summer. Squished berries, brambles and that sort of slightly burnt fruit stew that can lurk in really ripe Barbera. Some Piemonte sweet soil underpins the exuberant fruit and it’s all swept up and clean by the sort of mouthwatering acidity that makes another sip unavoidable. So clean, so carefully made but so true to the soil of La Morra where the land lends a beguiling scent to its fruit, well maybe, or just a half a bottle down fancy? Delicioso they say.

14% alcohol. Diam. $38

93 points.

2018 Crissante Alessandria Barbera d’Alba

A new producer for me, based in La Morra, home of Altare the modernist and this looks appropriately clean and fresh, albeit without being clobbered by oak flavour. Bearing in mind the Italian formality of putting the family name before the given name, this could the estate of Alessandria Crissante or not? Lovely to say with a musical Italian voice nonetheless despite the possibility of being unforgivably rude and bad at accents. The contents of the bottle are much easier to understand. Bright with dark sour cherry, digestive biscuits, nuts and that Piemontese austere stony earth. Sort of washy in a good way as the flavours float on the journey down the red lane. Ripe but crisply mouthwatering, yum. Wonder what that is in Italian? They must use the words a lot being so good at putting food on the table.

14.5%. Diam, bravo. $41 at auction.

93 points, better the second day, good sign.

2015 Vietti Barbera d’Asti La Crena

Early one Saturday morning a friend rang and said he was standing next to a six pack of this at the importer’s wholesale bin end sale. Shame it’s only from Asti and not one of the Alba versions I said, thinking I knew something about these things. Well, wrong, as this vineyard has plantings going back to 1932 and is as much treasured by the Vietti as anything closer to Alba and similarly priced, alas. Hooray for bin end sales. Opens as cleanly and impeccably fragrant as Viettis always seem to do. Rich dark blue and black fruit, sort of cherry and a hint of blueberry, classic Piemonte earth and licorice. At first there’s that very ripe fluidity that suggests it’s a bit too slick but over a day or two the fruit gets fresher and carries further on that superb Barbera acidity. Refreshment and authenticity. The oak’s only a nutty hint hiding behind the weight and drive of some deeply generous fruit. Great craft in the growing and the making. Vietti, authority writ large. Don’t think I can resist opening one of my tiny collection of their Baroli soon.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. Bargain thanks to the wine frenzy sale.

94 points.

2017 Giuseppe Cortese Barbera d’Alba

Another lucky win on the addictive on line auction site, this is fantastically bright, spotlessly clean and full of a spankingly fresh essence of Barbera from the mighty Langhe. Rich cherry and dark raspberry fruit with a touch of aniseed, spice and that wonderful stony mineral thing that those Piemonte hills do so well. One of the distinctive joys of good Barbera is its ability to cut even the ripest fruit with a pure crunch of mouthwatering acidity, making it almost essential for a nicely oily and tomato rich pizza. Not sure how this may develop as it disappeared with alarming haste as did said pizza. Joy.

14% alcohol. Cork. $23 auction bid, probably nearer $40 full retail. Lucky.

93 punti deliciosi.

2016 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Le Orme

Seems odd that a bit of Italy that produces grapes with tannins to make stewed English tea look wimpy can also value a variety with virtually none. Sweet blackberries, toffee and an earthy stone flavour. Blood orange both in flavour and acidity. Synesthesia suggests purple and blue. It’s a strange perception but there it is. After a lot of stern tannin recently, it’s a surprisingly pleasant change for simple fresh ripe acidity to sweep clean. Roll on summer and a bowl of fresh, sun warmed tomato pasta.

13.50% alcohol. Screwcap, bravo. $20, Murphy’s direct imports gets it right now and again.

91 points.

2018 Trediberri Barbera d’Alba

Beautifully labelled with art by a local Langhe artist, one of whose prints brightens the living room wall. Couldn’t resist the photo. The wine itself opens nice and clean with very ripe blackberry, plums and burnt toffee. With a bit of air, there’s a touch of Piemontese soil and a bit more freshness. Thankfully the richness is buffed into shape by that mouthwatering Barbera acidity which is somehow folded into the finish and hides the warmth of alcohol. The lack of tannin helps keep the focus on the bright fruit and acid. Not sure you’d notice the 15% if the label were not so honest. Bit of a big fellow en ballet pointe.

15% alcohol, careful sips. Screwcap, yes! $24 from the importer’s own invitational website shop. Bargain.

91 points.

2017 Piero Benevelli Langhe Rosso numero 3

If memory serves, tenuous but just possible, then this is the twins from Mondo Imports own dalliance with blending? 70% Barbera and 30% Nebbiolo combine seamlessly to make an extraordinarily delicious mouthful. Exquisitely balanced poise of floral perfume, brightest red fruit and cool Langhe mineral. Maybe the warmer year has pushed the Neb to be more friendly to the Barbera? Absolutely spotless and impossible to avoid another sip. Some wine demands unraveling and thought, some just need joyful drinking. This surely is the latter but as it’s Piemonte just a bit of the former? Bravissimo, D’Anna ragazzi, best one yet.

14% alcohol. Cork. $35 and a bargain.

93 points but plus for sheer lip smacking glee.

2016 Bruno Rocca Barbera d’Alba

Modernist, sweetly fruited and with a bit of lift to tickle the fancy. Very ripe, clean and crunchy cherries and plums but with just enough Langhe earthy stones and rocks to cut across. Slick and svelte but its roots still firmly in the Piemontese soil. Perhaps a bit more savouriness and austerity would be good. Nonetheless delicioso. The Bordeaux shaped bottle indicates the move away from rustic traditions perhaps? Bowl of tomato sauced pasta? Essential.

14.50% alcohol. Cork. $42.

91 points.