An exquisite Barbera. If Barbera [/bar-bear-ah/] is considered the peasant wine to the aristocracy of Barolo or the intellectual elite of Barbaresco when it comes to the wines of the fabled northern region of Italy known as the Langhe, Piedmont, then this single vineyard 2008 MARCHESI DI BAROLO Barbera Ravera is a prince among paupers. Well, not exactly. It costs $30 a bottle, so it’s not quite a pauper’s red wine. And it’s a princess, not a prince, because there is something wonderfully feminine about the quality of the wine—in its slippery soft silkiness and floral attributes of lavender and violets. It’s gently but emotionally expressive—glowing, radiant and sentimental beauty but marked by a tough spine—a strong, earthy, independent woman who has gotten her nails dirty in the soil to get where she is . . . strong enough to rule, but weak enough to fall in love. So, this is a consummate Italianate heroine of the opera. She is the queen-archetype, as is Puccini’s Turandot or Bellini’s Norma, and not the helpless victim-archetype, as in Madama Butterfly or Verdi’s La Traviata, who get run over and ruined by men, only to die a humiliating death in the end. When our strong heroine sings her final aria in that lyrical, soaring soprano voice, we are moved and stirred to the height of emotion, perhaps tears. This wine is operatic. –J.M.
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