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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs Blogs

Just looking at these puts me in the mood for some vino nero. (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

What's your go-to grape?

"Bar Month" at is back for another round – brought to you by Aperol, Pinnacle, Jameson, Fireball, Red Stag and Avion. The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

Like many non-expert wine drinkers, I was swimming in a sea of varietals looking for something to grab hold of and float downstream with. It took my introduction to my family's ancestral homeland to find it.

In fact, my return to the hilly Monferrato area in northwestern Italy in the 1990s led me to a number of wines I hadn't really known and that I fell in love with instantly: barbera, grignolino, ruche and the white erbaluce and cortese.

I'm especially enamored with the versions Sergio DeMartini and the local farmers make at the Sette Colli coop down the hill from Moncalvo. It's down-home wine that families drink together at table, made from the most local of grapes.

The problem is in Milwaukee the most of these are often impossible to find. Once in a while they pop up here or in Chicago and I stock up a bit. But at the moment, the cellar is dry when it comes to the spicier and rarer in America red varietals grignolino and ruche.

But their absence only makes my heart grow fonder and when I get to pop open a bottle, I'm never disappointed. Instead I'm instantly transported to a table at which my cousins are arrayed, smiling and talking and eating some of the best food I've ever had.

Luckily, America has discovered the acid, low tannin barbera. It's flavorful – rich in red berries – and extremely drinkable. It's no coincidence that despite what the wine-heads will tell you about Barolo and Barbaresco, barbera is THE wine of Piemonte. It's also the third-most planted grape in Italy.

Barbera – which my cousins in Piemonte sometimes call "vino nero" (black wine) – is now synonymous with wine for me. When I think of a glass of wine, I see and smell barbera.

If you'd like try a good barbera, Michele Chiarlo's Le Orme (a barbera d'Asti) is quite easily found in Milwaukee – even at grocery stores – and retails around $12-$14.

What's your go-to grape? When someone says, "wine," what flavor is instantly triggered in your brain? Use the Talkback feature below to share.


Bobby Tanzilo | Feb. 20, 2013 at 2:02 p.m. (report)

I'd recommend Ray's on North Avenue in Wauwatosa. Thief Wine is good, too.

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Jimmy_Jones | Feb. 20, 2013 at 1:03 p.m. (report)

I'd like to try some of these, where can you usually find the less popular italian wines in the Milwaukee area? What's a normal price point? I should probably check out Gloriosos... Personally, I currently have a case of $3 chuck shiraz in the cellar (cold spot under the basement stairs). I've had worse wines for $15, so it's reserved for simple meals & weeknight pours. Obviously I have others but this isn't my blog to fill... otherwise I prefer to sample before I buy, I'm still learning what I like.

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