Here’s another rule that’s made to be broken: “M’sieu, you must nevair drink wine with your salad!”
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This one begs all manner of questions: What kind of salad? What’s in it? And what kind of wine are you planning to open? I put on the snarky French accent not to make fun of the French, but because the old conventional wisdom is likely based on a simple, classic French palate-freshener: Crisp, tender lettuce gently tossed with a basic vinaigrette of olive oil and sharp wine vinegar.
You don’t have to be a snooty sommelier to figure out why that won’t work! Lettuce doesn’t bring much to the wine-matching party, and ladling in the vinegar adds a sharp acidity that wars with the wine. Monsieur le Headwaiter got that one right.
But where is it written that every salad has to be lettuce-in-vinaigrette? Nowhere in my book! Start tinkering with the ingredients, and it’s not hard to turn that simple, problematic-with-wine dish into something much more sympatico. A Cobb salad, layered with wine-friendly bits of meat and cheese? Bingo! Or how about a salade niçoise loaded with fresh tuna, olives and other deeply flavored delights?
Frankly, it isn’t even necessary to get that fancy. Faced with a hurried dinner hour and a bottle of Barbera d’Asti that needed to be tasted (see notes below), we made a quick-and-easy salad that defeats the conventional wisdom.
To make a long story as short as possible, we started with fresh, crisp lettuce (iceberg, don’t judge), then tossed it with cut-up fresh tomatoes straight from the garden. The naturally tangy-sweet juice from the tomatoes made a wine-friendly alternative to vinegar or citrus, and blended naturally with a good, green Italian olive oil to make a non-vinegar-ette. Add slices of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano for another key ingredient that sings with wine, and we were good to go.
Salad? With wine? Don’t mind if we do!
Wine Focus: Piemonte and Piemontese grapes
The subject says it all! Our WineLovers Discussion Group is focusing this month on Piemonte wines plus traditional Piemontese varieties grown in other locations around the world: Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Cortese, Arneis and more. This gives us a broad range of red and white and even rosato, from inexpensive to very expensive.
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The California Wine Club offers access to California’s most coveted and prestigious wines with two upper-level club options for collectors and connoisseurs.
Our Signature Series offers hand-selected, extremely limited-production gems that are covered in gold medals and 90+ point ratings.
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Today’s Tasting Report
Cascina La Ghersa 2013 “Piagé” Barbera d’Asti ($14.99)
Ruby in color, rather light, clear but not transparent. Simple red-fruit aromas, cranberry perhaps, with a back note of fresh green herbs. Dry and tart on the palate, red-fruit flavors follow the nose, crisp, palate-cleansing acidity, food-friendly 13% alcohol, and a softly bitter note of tannins joining tart berries in the finish. U.S. importer: Vanguard Wines, Columbus, Ohio. (Oct. 7, 2015)
FOOD MATCH: For today’s topic, we enjoyed it with a simple salad dressed with fresh tomatoes and their juice, olive oil and thin slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a more traditional match with red meat in general, grilled chicken, tomato sauces and cheese-based dishes.
WHEN TO DRINK: Barbera d’Asti is not intended for long-term cellaring, and it won’t really improve as its fruit fades against its natural acidity. It’s best to buy it and drink it soon. That said, the winery suggests that it won’t suffer from aging over two or three years.
VALUE: Our local price is within range of Wine-Searcher.com’s $14 median U.S. retail. At that price and through the middle teens it’s a fine value for a good Northwestern Italian table wine.
WEB LINKS T. Edward Wines in New York City, a regional distributor of organic wines from around the world, has a useful fact sheet on Cascina la Ghersa and its “Piage” Barbera d’Asti here
For links to many more good Barbara d’Asti bottlings and information about the wine and its region, check this page on Wine-Searcher.com.
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