Whenever I make tomato sauces for pasta, I simply have to have an Italian wine with lots of acidity, and one of the best I’ve tasted recently comes from a winery I’ve written about a number of times over the years, Icardi in Piedmont. Barbera, of course, plays something of a second-fiddle role in Piedmont to the more profound nebbiolo, the source of Barolo and Barbaresco. But when it comes to everyday drinking at a modest price with simple, Italian-inspired dishes, almost nothing compares with barbera.
And Icardi’s 2008 Barbera d’Asti “Tabaren” (from the Asti area) shows why. It’s loaded with bright red fruit, especially cherry and raspberry, and hints of red licorice and vanilla. The overall impression is one of freshness and vitality, a wine that almost dances out of the glass with its tingling acidity and moderate alcohol of 13 percent. I enjoyed it with a sauce based on yellow heirloom tomatoes (picked by me at their ripest in October and then frozen), chopped basil and parsley. I tossed the sauce with penne in a cast-iron skillet, sprinkled chopped mozzarella over the pasta and then browned it under the broiler for a few minutes. The result was superb, with just the right wine to match. I paid $15 for the wine in New York. Imported by Vinifera Imports, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.