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Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera 2013
The history of Fontanafredda is a noble one. It began in 1858, when Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy, purchased the Fontanafredda estate -a former hunting preserve- as a country home. Soon thereafter, he began to produce fine red wines from indigenous grape varieties dolcetto, barbera and nebbiolo. In 1878 King Vittorio II died and his firstborn son, Count Emanuele Alberto di Mirafiori, inherited Fontanafredda. Count Mirafiori created the commercial business of wine from the estate and released the estate's first nebbiolo labeled as Barolo with the vintage 1878. Beginning in 1932, the estate transferred to Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world's oldest bank, who retained ownership of Fontanafredda for 76 years.
A prestigious and distinctive region for red wines in northwestern Italy, Piedmont is responsible for some of the country’s longest-lived and most sought-after wines. Set with a backdrop of the visually stunning Alps, its most prized vines are planted at higher altitudes on the warmer, south-facing slopes where sunlight exposure is maximized. The climate is continental, with cold winters and hot, humid summers. Despite the rain shadow effect of the Alps, precipitation takes place year-round, and the reliable autumnal fog provides a cooling effect, which prolongs hang time and aids in the development of phenolic ripeness in its grapes.
Easy-going Barbera is the most planted grape in Piedmont, beloved for its trademark high acidity, low tannin, and juicy red fruit. However, the most prized variety is Nebbiolo, named for the region’s omnipresent fog (“nebbia” in Italian). This grape is responsible for the exalted wines of Barbaresco and Barolo, known for their ageability, firm tannins and hallmark aromas of tar and roses. Nebbiolo wines, despite their pale hue, pack a pleasing punch of flavor and structure, and the best examples can require about a decade’s wait before they become approachable. Barbaresco tends to be more elegant in style while Barolo is more powerful. Across the Tanaro River, the Roero region, and the farther north, the regions of Gattinara and Ghemme, also provide excellent quality Nebbiolo.
Dolcetto is Piedmont’s other important red grape, ready to drink within a couple of years of release. White wines are less important here but range from fruity and fresh to serious and able to take a few years in the cellar. Key varieties include Arneis, Cortese, Timorasso, Erbaluce and the sweet, charming Muscat, responsible for the brilliantly recognizable, Moscato d'Asti.
Friendly, approachable, and full of juicy fruit flavor, Barbera produces wines in a wide range of styles, from young and fruity to serious, spicy, and age-worthy. Piedmont is the most famous source of Barbera, but is also planted in the Italian provinces of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. It is one of the most successful and lasting remnants of the Cal-Italian movement, grown throughout the state of California—particularly in the Sierra Foothills—and has also found a foothold in parts of Australia.
In the Glass
Barbera is typically marked by red cherry, raspberry, and blackberry flavors backed by a signature zingy acidity and smooth tannins. More complex examples can include notes of cocoa, savory spice, anise, and nutmeg. In warmer New World climates, Barbera is all about the fruit, sometimes leaning towards over-ripe or dried fruit flavors that can give an impression of sweetness to the wine. Old World Barbera can develop intriguing notes of graphite, smoke, lavender, and violet.
Barbera’s prominent acidity makes it a natural match with tomato-based dishes, therefore making it an easy pairing with a wide array of Italian cuisine. It works just as well with lighter red meat dishes, hamburgers, or barbecue.
Most Barbera wines come from one of two villages in Piemonte—Alba and Asti. Though it is difficult to generalize, typically Barbera d’Asti is softer and more elegant with bright, tangy acidity, while Barbera d’Alba tends to be fuller, rounder, and fleshier.