Picks: Italian Reds - Crivelli Barbera and Pichierri Primitivo

At the recent Slow Food Dallas American Farmstead Cheese Tasting slowfoodusa.org, we enjoyed two artisanal 2001 vintage wines from family-owned and -run wineries in Italy: one from the north--Crivelli Barbera d'Asti Collina La Mora, Piemonte; the other from the south—Pichierri Vermiglio Primitivo del Tarantino, from the Sava, on the Salento peninsula in the Puglia region. Both wines are limited -- under 2000 cases produced -- seasonal family labors of love, enjoyable and affordable.

Primitivo: a beautiful deep ruby color with intense rich plummy aromas, ripe fruit flavors, medium body, excellent balance, long finish with soft tannins. Satisfying and easy at 12.5% alcohol. The family vineyards are located in Puglia where the midday sun scorches but air currents crossing from the Adriatic to the interior Ionian Sea cool the grapes at night. The varietal dates back centuries and in the 17th century Benedictine monks called it precocious because it matures early in this zone. The vines grow close to the ground and look like ancient gnomes with arms stretched up to the sky.

Barbera: hand-harvested from vines planted over 80 years ago in the hills northeast of Asti, in Piedmont’s Castagnole Monferrato. Ruby red color, aromas of herbs and dried flowers, exquisite, round, full-bodied and complex, 13.5% alcohol. Grapes are left on the skins for six to seven days, then transferred into vats. The must remains in contact with the skins for an additional four to five days to obtain deep color and structure. Then the wine is transferred into French Allier oak barrels and decanted every month from November until August, prior to bottling in September. Malolactic fermentation finishes naturally between May and June.

Both wines under $15, available at Jimmy's Food Store, 4901 Bryan, Dallas, 214.823.6180

KLS, courtesy of Alfonso Cevola 10/23/2003