Any chance we had to get to Italy, my wife and I always headed for two small towns that we grew to love. Both were far enough off the tourist trails that we cold get a nice room and great food for a lot less than the millions of tourists that flock to Florence, Rome, and Venice.
The first was Neive in Piemonte which had about 3,000 souls and a magnificent but tiny restaurant and hotel called La Contea, owned for decades by Claudia and Tonino Verro. Thankfully, it still exists. While there, we always focused on the local Barbera wines because they constituted the best bargains in the vicinity.
The other was in Sansepolcro in Arezza at a fine dining place adjacent to Relais Oroscopo. Sadly, they only have a pizzeria now. It was good, but the closed place was one of the best in all of Italy. Inevitably, we drank a lot of Montepulciano from the abutting area of Abruzzo.
What both of these wines have in common is both are huge, aromatic, and fruity.
When back in the U.S., we looked for wines from both areas and finally settled on Vietti’s Barbera d’Asti “Tre Vigne” ($18) and La Valentina’s “Spelt” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva ($22). Both were just a tad more than we had been paying in Italy, but they successfully brought the whole experience back every time we opened a bottle and it is only fair to pay for shipping. What I didn’t realize is both wines are imported by the same company, Dalla Terra. Certainly an importer worth looking for.
Any slow cooked meat, especially rabbit, will match up beautifully with the Barbera. The Montepulciano is a perfect match for lamb, especially ravioli stuffed with lamb.
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