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It will soon be the end of an era in Arizona wine and winemaking, because Fort Bowie shall pass under the knife this year, if all the rumors I have currently heard are true. Supposedly, a pecan or pistachio company bought the whole land, and is planning on ripping out the entire vineyard.  One of the major sources of fruit for winemakers across the state will be gone, forever, unless some sort of agreement can be reached.  Indeed, the source of the entirety of the Provisioner label (which I still haven’t reviewed yet, I’ll get around to it at some point) will be gone.

So, it seems fitting to crack open my oldest bottle made from Fort Bowie fruit that I still have in my cellar, which promises to be a wild ride–much like the history of that vineyard: the 2012 Wild Ferment Barbera.

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2012 Barbera Wild Ferment from Page Springs Cellars

The Wine: The 2012 Wild Ferment Barbera is made from 100% Barbera, coming from Fort Bowie Vineyard, located in Bowie, Arizona, near Willcox. The label tells the story, and here I quote verbatim: “With all the talk out there about ‘natural’ fermentations, we thought we’d roll with a batch of grapes that started fermenting on the way home from the vineyard… On a particularly warm and busy day, we all plugged away at the day’s winemaking tasks while several bins of this Barbera foamed and bubbled onto the floor in their picking bins. When we finally got around to de-stemming and considering yeast additions, we decided to just let things go.” Eric Glomski was the winemaker for this vintage.  I suspect, like most PSC reds, this wine was aged on neutral oak.

The Nose: Upon first smelling this wine, my first thought is actually of beer: specifically a Belgian lambic, specifically a framboise which I drank many years ago. It has that same sour raspberry nose, like raspberries growing out in the back of a farmhouse off a country lane.  (I can’t help but suspect that some strain of brettanomyces was involved in this wild ferment, since that classic barnyard is usually a tell-tale indicator, and that particular yeast loves wines with a high pH… like Arizona Barbera). Along with that barnyard earth and raspberry, the classic cherry, allspice, and anise notes of Arizona Barbera are also to be found once this wine opens up just a bit.

The Palate:  This wine, like most Arizona versions of Barbera, is pretty light bodied, but there is where the comparison largely ends. The palate of this wine again reminds me of a lambic, except with no carbonation or fizz. Sour cherry and raspberry and lots of earth again intermingle with that classic brett note I get from sour beer, intermingling with lots of anise and just slight hints of rosemary. The finish is incredibly sour and bretty, lasting for 54 seconds. There are no tannins present.  Unlike said beer (or at least, the lambic I had), however, the wine is dry, with no residual sugar.  It’s oddly not as acidic as most expressions of this varietal I’ve encountered.

The Pairing: This wine needs strong food. I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say: pair this like you would a Lambic beer.  Big, rich, and strong is the key–things like blue cheese, feta, and thick chocolate cake could be possibilities. If you want something more substantial, go for a roasted duck with cherries, or even eggs benedict. For a vegan or vegetarian pairing, make a fennel, sunchoke, and apple salad with some feta cheese (or some vegan equivalent)

Impressions: This is not your standard Arizona Barbera in the slightest. Honestly, this makes me really think of a Belgian fruit beer more than an Arizona Barbera.  It is definitely a wine that, as the label states, “embraces the funk in our lives.”   The 2012 Wild Ferment is strange, and funky indeed.  While it is not my favorite expression of this varietal, I suspect that lovers of sour and Belgian-style beers would immediately love this particular vintage; a great wine to bridge the gap between beer and wine palates–if you can find it.  I seem to remember that when I bought it last year, it was one of the last bottles left, and at only 49 cases of this wine produced, it may require some hunting. Frankly, I’m not sure whether I like it or not, to be honest.

This wine is a short woman fond of funk rock and punk, with a dyed pixie cut and died armpit hair that is done in a triad color scheme of light blue, pink, and blonde. She can be very abrasive, and speaks her mind, but she’s a firm believer in what she believes, and is an intense personality that can be difficult to be around for long periods of time. You get in intense arguments with her that usually end violently with glassware thrown at you.