Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Does Barbera pair well with fish? 
A few weeks ago, I interviewed Cristina Oddero who was nothing short of fabulous given her passion and enthusiasm for her estate's history.  As it turns out, she was slightly less fabulous than the subject of today's review. 
No red wine with fish right? 
Wrong.  I am a firm believer in the benchmark of "drink what you like".  Most of the time this will work and recipes can be tweaked to make them more wine friendly.  Last night I had some gorgeous, thick salmon filets that I marinated and grilled. When topped with sauteed wild mushrooms, the pairing was amazing.  Read on for the review and the recipe.
The 2010 Oddero Barbera d'Alba is a gorgeous deep ruby in the glass.  Out of the cellar, it was initially a little too cold but as it warmed, the aromatics blossomed.  This is filled with bright cherry, floral, spice and clean earth aromas. On the palate, the wine's acidity is tamed well.  That's always been a slight contention of mine, though Barbera from Alba seem to be more restrained in this regard. This version is balanced perfectly. There's a gorgeous core of ripe cherry fruit, with an intense black pepper streak that is accented by a floral note and licorice/anise. Good length with moderate tannins that provide nice structure. This is so delicious right now, in a classic style.   Great value too.
The fatty oils in the fish brought out the fruit in the wine and the mushrooms accented the earthy components nicely.  Definitely not what you'd see in a wine pairing 101 book, but then again,  I'm unconventional!  91 points, about $14.

~ Gorgeous 2010 Barbera d'Alba from Oddero.  Great value around $14 ~

So what of this fish?  We love salmon, but I was getting tired of searing it on the cooktop. These pieces were very thick, so rather than smoke the entire kitchen, I figured they'd hold up on a well oiled grill.  I marinated them for about 30 minutes, turning them over half way through.  Here's the recipe. 
Teriyaki Glazed Salmon
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Large handful of diced chives
Salt & Pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together.  Salt & Pepper the fish and lay skin side down in a glass pan. Pour the marinade over the fish and allow to soak for 15 minutes.  Then turn the fish over and marinate 15 minutes more.  The longer you marinate the fish, the stronger the flavors will be.  30 minutes allows for a nice flavor that isn't overpowering, especially with the red wine. 
Spray the grill with Pam just before placing the fish skin side down first.  Turn after about 4 minutes.  After about 2 minutes on the flesh side, rotate the fish 45 degrees to get your grill marks.  Top with sauteed mushrooms. The char from the grill, along with the woody notes from the mushrooms really played well with the wine. The marinade contributes the sort of savory flavor that you can't quite identify.  Try it!

Teriyaki Glazed Salmon with Garlic & Chives

Cin Cin!


  1. John, this is so right-on! I love the "drink what you like".
    Talk of value, Barbera d'Alba, Dolcetto, and other more ignored wines from Italy, should all be explored regularly:-)

  2. No question Dennis. People get so wrapped up with pairings, but if it works for you, what difference does it make? I was worried that the maple syrup (from VT sorry):) would really mess the wine up, especially given Barbera's acidity, but the saltiness of the Teriyaki mellowed that quite a bit and the fatty/oils of salmon really bring out the fruit in a wine when it isn't too tannic. I think that's the key in pairing reds with fish - just stay away from very tannic wines.

    On another note, the 2008 Poggio Antico Rosso popped up here but it's not cheap. Pushing $32, what do you think?

    1. I'd buy at least one bottle! I'd buy at least one bottle for $35. You might always say: "I'd wished I'd tried that one!"

  3. agreed John, I once munched my way through a Spaghetti alla Vongole at Osteria Santo Spirito in Florence, accompanied by a glass or 2 of Villa Mangiacane Chianti Classico and it was lovely. The only problem might occur with a very delicate white fish with say a cream sauce.
    Barbera is a great food wine full stop, with almost anything, as is Dolcetto. Another Italian underrated and great value red that works well with fish is Bardolino. I'm absolutely a believer in drinking what you enjoy though, and people get way too hung up on the idea of perfect wine and food matches. Sommeliers of course get carried away with the whole thing, as it's part of their job. There are very few perfect matches, and as long as you avoid the few real clashes, personal taste is the best guide.

    Just as you or I might bang on about the greatness of quality wines we love and recommend, the most important thing in any level of wine appreciation, is personal taste.

  4. Adam,

    We're agreed for sure. I absolutely love Dolcetto and have tasted through quite a few 2011's recently that have all been nice.

    It's funny you mention Bardolino. In my article about Bolla, we had their Bardolino chilled with some prosciutto, cheese, olives, etc.. I could completely see how well that would go with a prosciutto panini al fresco. Chilled in a tumbler just being what it is. Fruity and fresh. I was surprised how much I liked it.