For the first time in the fourteen years that we have been doing these tastings, we had a triple-win (the less optimistic may refer to this as a three-way tie). Two of them turned out to be the same bottling (also relatively rare) that received votes from all tasters, plus one bottle that received the top mark from three of the tasters. Ali correctly guessed that two were the same wine based solely on the nose.
It had been nine years since we last tried Barbera as a group (the last time was in March 2009), and while there was much to enjoy, we weren't necessarily wowed by them either. We liked the good ones, but the ones we didn't like we really didn't like. They were better with food, especially the cheeses, and they were also good values, especially compared to more celebrated Barolo and Barbaresco wines, grown in essentially the same areas. Andy felt that the acidity in these stood out a bit too much.
First Place (tie): Castello di Neive Barbera d'Alba Superiore 2015. Featured a darker nose, like red roses, licorice, charcoal, burnt toast, and red meat. The most floral of the night, reminiscent of a field of dark red flowers. Tasters found cranberry flavors in the mouth, plus blueberries, violets, rare beef, and iodine. David noted that it was a little hot. Nice texture, more tannic than the others, with a long finish. Ali said that "this reminds me of what I want a Malbec to taste like." 15.5% alcohol, and spends a year in small French oak. Ali, Andy, and Josephine's favorite of the night, with only Suzanne not supplying any points. 25 total points. David's bottle. About $26.
First Place (tie): Damilano Barbera d'Asti 2016. A bit dusty on the nose, and a little earthy, along with notions of black cherry, rubber, petroleum, pomegranate, dark berries, cherry cola, cinnamon, and caramel. Herbal and super woodsy, with a hint of mint or eucalyptus. Licorice on the short finish, and a bit more tart than expected, with a cherry cola note. Starts off with a bright splash, and then a licorice quality, but fades quickly. Ali asked, "Where did you go? You were doing great!" Kristin and Suzanne's favorite, with all tasters giving at least three points, for a total of 25. Kristin's bottle. About $15.
First Place (tie): Damilano Barbera d'Asti 2016. Offered scents of clapping erasers, skunk, sumac, cream, sulfur dioxide, balsa wood, pine, slight chocolate, and slight eucalyptus. Josephine was reminded of "beach ball plastic." Plenty of fruit on the palate, like dark juicy cherries, plus that eucalyptus note. Sticks to the front of the tongue, with good acidity and balance, finishing with a cough drop quality. David's favorite, and all tasters contributed at least three points, for a total of 25. Ali's bottle. About $18.
Second Place: Elio Perrone Barbera d'Asti Tasmorcan 2014. The nose was musty and a little fecal, but the most pronounced scent was that of dill. Tasters also found scents of vegetables, dust, decaying leaves, pine sap, mildew, burnt sugar, Christmas tree, myrrh, pink grapefruit, and plastic. Andy exclaimed, "What's the dill?!", and noted, "I want some tartar sauce." Less earthy on the palate, like dry dark chocolate, desiccated fruit, leather, and plenty of acidity. Restrained, and feels like it might be older. Andy decided that, "it's weird, it doesn't taste like wine to me", and said it was like "the iced tea of wine." Josephine was reminded of "fortified wine, but not strong enough to be fortified." Kristin felt that it was like "Crystal Light iced tea powder." Received 6 points. Andy's bottle. About $20.
Third Place: Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Le Orme 2015. Had a nose of wet concrete, old book, hay, mildew, and a little barnyard. David felt that notes of the spoilage yeast Brettanomyces was too strong to get past. Tasted a little dirty, with a hint of smoked bacon, plus plums, and eraser. Josephine noted that "you want to keep your rubber boots on with this one." Received 3 points. Suzanne's bottle. About $17.
I Carpini Barbera Sette zolle Colli Tortonesi 2009. This wine's nose reminded us of McDonald's French fries, a hospital wing, Band Aids, canned beets, spoiled cantaloupe, rubber cement, canned bamboo shoots, acetone, sewage, and Doritos. Fecal. The most offensive of the night. Andy noted that "It's daring us to drink it." Tasted of canned tomatoes/Campbell's tomato soup, vegetable stems, soggy basil, and dirty water. Like someone squeezed limes into tomato soup. Ali finally pleaded, "Do we have to keep drinking this?" No points. Josephine's bottle. About $22.