Barbera is an interesting grape. Coming from the Piemonte region of Italy, Barbera has an interesting story. Single varietal Barbera wines from Italy are commonly found in any wine store. It’s an easy going acidic red that ripens early, and ages quickly. Historically, Barbera wines would be imbibed while waiting for the far more tannic (and profitable) Nebbiolo wines in barrel to age to the point where they could imbibed. Barbera was planted everywhere Nebbiolo wasn’t, and thereby became, from what I’ve heard, the standard table wine of the Piemonte. From there, it’s spread across Italy, to become it’s third most commonly grown grape.
It has also spread from there via Italian immigrants across the New World but here in Arizona, though, one rarely finds this grape on its own. In fact, the only other two single varietal Barbera wines in the state which I am aware of are coming from the two Orthodox monasteries; St. Pasius and St. Anthony’s. The reason is due to the fact that Barbera, as mentioned, ripens earlier than most other red grapes in Arizona; this makes it among the easiest grape in Arizona to make into a late harvest red. This is the goal of these two sites. The reason is due to the unique nature of the Eucharist in the Orthodox tradition and associated canon law, late harvest dessert wines are required. However, I digress.
2013 Hail to the Queen, Dektown Cellars
The Wine: The grapes for this vintage came from Fort Bowie, near Willcox, like most of the grapes used in the wines of Dektown Cellars. (I’m not entirely sure who else in the state is growing Barbera other than Dragoon and one private vineyard here in the Verde Valley.) This wine was aged in neutral Hungarian Oak, which provides a nice balance for the fruity characters of this grape quite nicely. The story behind the name of this Barbera is connected to Dektown Cellars’ chess-themed label series with the 2013 vintage, and also a comment made by Sam Pillsbury when tasting it from barrel: “Hail to the Queen!” (Fun fact; if you drink the bottles of wine in order, you’ll have a five-bottle checkmate.)
The Nose: Intense fruit is the first thing that comes to mind when first catching the scent of this wine; watermelons, cherry, prickly pear, raspberry, and teaberries. Notes of mint, vanilla, and anise underlie the fruit, and a soft whisper of sandalwood provided by the Hungarian Oak completes the bouquet.
The Palate: This wine is a fruit bomb. Cherry, Strawberry, and Prickly Pear explode onto the palate. These notes intermingle with nutmeg, eucalyptus, sandalwood, and a freshly lit cheroot. Interestingly, the peppery notes which distinguish Barbera wines from Italy are entirely absent here. There is no tannins in this wine, but a nice refreshing acidity that will make it food friendly. This is a lighter-bodied red, with a finish which lasts from roughly 15-20 seconds.
Pairing: Hail to the Queen would make a versatile red table wine; I can see this pairing quite easily with hamburgers off the grill, roasted chicken, or spaghetti. I could also see this pairing quite well with Spanikopita or a Margherita Pizza, to go with a vegetarian pairing.
Impressions: As the only pure expression of an Arizona Barbera which is readily accessible to the average drinker of Arizona Wines, I must reccomend this wine first and foremost on that merit. Speaking from past experience with the Barberas that aren’t redily accessible, this wine expresses exactly what Barbera in Arizona is like, without the average drinker having to become a member of the Orthodox Church first. It’s bright, and beautiful, and even a little intimidating. It’s also great to drink now.
This wine kind of reminds me of a brilliant, fiery-tempered Irish woman–perhaps like the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, She’s kind, but you definately don’t want to tick her off since she knows her way around a sword, a ship, and even a flintlock rifle–and she’ll beat you at chess.