Two Great Contrasts for this Dish from the Ends of Italy

2008 Andrea Oberto Barbera d'Alba
Like many Barbera this straddles the wine between the new and old styles. A dose of new, French oak adds spice and tannins to compliment the wines naturally high acidity and bold, jammy fruit.

2007 Feudo di San Nicola Negroamaro

While this wine also spends time in oak, the power and depth of the negroamaro grape hides much of that evidence, allowing the velvetty, plummy fruit and slight licorice bite od Negroamaro to shine.

As for the wines, it was difficult.  As I mentioned before, common sense dictates that each of these bottles should have paired well, but the task set before us on this night was to figure out which one paired best.

Andrea Oberto, Barbera d’Alba 2008

This wine showed aromas of cherry and new leather on the nose.  Leading to a palate full of cranberry, sour cherry, cedar and bitters.  A medium bodied and easy drinking Barbera, made in a light style with crisp acidity, which gives it a very refreshing finish.  It paired well with the vodka sauce, as its streamlined acidity cut through the rich sauce and left you with a cleansed palate for the next bite.

Cataldi Madonna, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007
The nose is certainly Montepulciano with big blackberry fruit, ripe cherry, Christmas spice and a hint of funk. The palate is soft with red fruits, sour apple, clove and a bit of copper penny, which was all carried well by its brisk acidity.  I found the flavors complimented the smoky pancetta perfectly, especially through its long and staying finish.  Simple, but in a beautiful way, and it paired well with the penne, but I found its soft texture to be too much of the same thing against the vodka sauce’s rich, creamy texture.

Feudo di San Nicola, Negroamaro IGT, 2004
This started out closed on the nose and even gave a vegetal hint of fresh peas but, after an hour, opened in bottle, it started to show aromas of plum, a bit of stewed tomato, animal musk and pepper.  This may not sound pleasurable to a fan of big fruity wines, but those in search of nuance and complexity would have a great time unveiling the layers found here.  The palate was thick and a bit chewy but structured with blueberry, cherry, savory herbs and an aftertaste of spicy cherry and tobacco.  The stiff structure kept things interesting against the vodka sauce and its flavors added even more complexities to the tomato and woodsy flavors of the pancetta.

In the end, and after much debate among the tasting group, the Feudo di San Nicola, Negroamaro won out as the best pairing.  It showed a beautiful structure of fruit and acidity against the penne and added multiple complexities to the sauce’s flavor; it was hard to put the glass down.  However, in all honesty, I would recommend any of these wines with this dish and not just from these producers.  This is truly fine dinning in your home without the price tag or the hassle.  Enjoy!