Asti is a small city near Milan in northern Italy’s Piedmont region, a cool zone of foothills famous for white truffles — the fragrant fungi that are among the world’s rarest and most expensive delicacies. Americans are most familiar with Asti as the home of sweet, frothy sparkling wines made with the moscato grape. But like most of Italy, Piedmont produces mostly dry red wines, and Asti itself has its own separate appellation for reds made with another local vine variety, called barbera.
Barbera is a fascinating vine with high-quality potential that is being increasingly planted outside its home region. Its fruit has an exceptional capacity for retaining acidity even at high degrees of ripeness, which has made barbera an interesting experimental vine in warmer vineyard zones aiming to hedge against increasing temperatures, such as California and Australia.
But in its own backyard, barbera makes charming midweight wines like this one, loaded with snappy blackberry and cranberry flavors that are quite dry but less astringent than many Italian reds. Their uncommonly light texture and modest levels of tannin make them remarkably flexible partners, as complementary to food usually paired with white wine (grilled fish, green vegetables) as with more traditional red-wine fare like roasted meats or truffled pastas.