Tre Donne Barbera d'Alba 2003
The Tre Donne in this Barbera are three Lequio sisters, Rosanna, Daniela, and Antonella, who
with the help of their dedicated husbands run a winery and estate in the heart of Piedmont's
Langhe region. The Lequios have been growing vines and making wine since the mid 19th
century in the Alba region; the family winery produces a wide range of Piemontese specialties
including Barolo, Barbaresco, this Barbera d'Alba, a Roero Arneis, Barbera d'Asti, the white
Gavi, the fizzy Moscato d'Asti, a Dolcetto and more. It seems these people have got the
region covered. As wine regions go, it is one worth attending to.
Compared to the much vaunted Barolo and Barbaesco, both Nebbiolo wines, Barbera (the grape and wine have the same name) flows veritable rivers in the Piedmont, with predictable variations in quality. The Tre Donne produce a truly likeable $16 Barbera, clean, fresh, direct and honest. The acidity is crisp, the fruit pointed, tannins characteristically light. To bypass the wine-speak, this wine is downright delicious. It has body, fortitude, and the character of a year's aging in large Slavonian oak casks (followed by six months in bottle before release). The wine is ruby with a garnet edge. The nose is blackberry, mushroom and deep fragrant earth. On the palate, the wine is dry, with notes of licorice, plum, blackberry, tobacco, a very bright cherry and strawberry element with acid to match, and a clay-based minerality. If you look for it, meaning you are not distracted by the excellent fruit, you may find a touch of the barnyard.
The finish, of moderate length, features the bright cherry and berry. The wine is fruity and fun, but at the same time it offers an earthy depth. It does not make any analogy to Barolo—different grape, different slopes—but it does bring around its own version of gutsy Piedmont earth. The wine is not one of those that cry out for food as a sensory complement, but it seems a shame nevertheless to drink it without moving on to concomitant pleasures: food, music, affection, abandon, and perhaps “bigger” wines (with a little grappa as a finale).
Labels do not make wines, but then again why not admire a label when its quality matches
that of the bottle. The Tre Donne bottle is stylish indeed, with a superb kinetic graphic on the
front, and an evocative portrait of the trio on the back. I can honestly say I trust these
women. I am hardly surprised I am enjoying their wine.
I sometimes patronize an Italian pastry shop that has a wine-map of Italy on the wall; the Piedmont section is so thick with wine names, you cannot see the towns.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman