An approachable, affordable, elegant red wine from Italy’s Piedmont region
By Alan J. Wax
An Italian wine producer little known to many in the U.S. is about to launch a new style of Barbera. This new Piedmontese red, sold under the Ricossa Antica Casa brand, borrows the appassimento winemaking technique, which uses dried grapes and is popular in the Valpolicella district of another northern Italian wine region, the Veneto.
This new wine is made from grapes that are left to dry for several weeks prior to crushing. The result: a higher sugar-to-juice ratio that fills out the body and results in a rounder, more elegant wine and, in the case of the Ricossa wine, a softening of the acidity often associated with Barbera.
The wine, which I sampled at a luncheon sponsored by Ricossa’s owner, MGM Mondo del Vino, at Lupa Restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village, is an approachable, light-medium-bodied, dry wine with a smooth red-berry and cherry fruit. It’s drinkable alone — or with many foods. Ricossa Appassimento Barbera 2014, which has an ABV of 13.5 percent, will retail in the U.S. for about $26 for a 750 ml bottle.
The 2014 Ricossa is the first appassimento wine ever produced in the Piedmont and followed a year-long government approval process. Ricossa, which produced 80,000 bottles of the new style wine, until now has been sold mostly in the Midwest, according to brand manager Andrea Marazia,
Despite the similar process, this new-style Barbera is different from the rich, high alcohol Amarone wines made using the same process in Valpolicella. In the latter, the grapes are dried for four months — on straw mats — before vinification. Ricossa’s Barbera grapes are handpicked and dried in a ventilated room for at least three weeks. The fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with skin for about two weeks and then is matured, 60 percent in barriques and 40 percent in stainless, for eight months, followed by a minimum six months in bottle.
A shipment of the new wine, a group of wine writers were told at the luncheon, is at sea, heading to the U.S. the wine. The wine already is available in Canada and Europe.
Ricossa, which buys its grapes from a consortium of growers in the Piedmont, came up with the idea of using the appassimento process almost three years ago and working with the growers worked for a year to obtain government approval for the new DOC, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata (controlled designation of origin).
Barbera is the third-most-planted grape variety in Italy, outside of Sangiovese and Montepulciano and is known for its deep purplish hue, low tannins, high acidity and robust well-rounded flavors, making perfect for pairing anything from flavorful cheese to pasta to stewed or grilled meat.
Ricossa Antica Casa is named for a long-shuttered Piedmontese distillery that dated back to the early 1800s. The name was acquired by MGM Mono del Vino to produce a range of classic Piedmontese wines, including Ricossa Barolo DOCG, Barbera d’Asti DOC, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, and Gavi DOCG, that are considered good values.
A group of winemakers founded MGM Mondo del Vino in 1991. It was acquired in 2013 by the Mondodelvino Group SpA. The parent company operates in many areas of Italy, producing a wide variety of wines under a number of labels including those of major retailers. The company produce 25 million 750 ml bottles and 4.5 million 3L boxes of wine each year, which are export to over 40 countries.
Though best known for their reds, Ricossa produces one still white wine, a Gavi, made from 100 percent Cortese. It’s a dry, crisp wine. It also makes a delightful, soft uncloying, slightly frizzante Moscato d’Asti.
Ricossa wines are imported by Touchstone Wines of Redwood City, California.