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California is not really full of surprises and if I were really going to try to be tricky, I would make you search for the one Abouriou that always seems to make an appearance at wine geek feasts, but I'm going to play nice and let you in on a little secret. There is a fair amount of one grape grown in California, perhaps less than in the past, that seems ideally suited not only to the climate, but to California's style of wine making.

One grape that I almost always say I should be drinking more of. What is it? Well you might not be surprised to find out it's Barbera! Yes, that Piedmontese stalwart is a child all grown up on the West Coast, and it can be beautiful. Because of the West Coast's climate, Barbera tends to be significantly fruitier here than in Italy, with softer acidity, though Barbera's acidity can never really be tamed. All the richness of fruit and soft tannins mean that California Barbera can better handle the new oak that producers tend to want to robe it in. Here it tends to work more often than not, producing some sumptuous results.

Photo courtesy star5112 via Flickr/CC

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  • Snooth User: maffe
    146867 51

    Nice to hear that you recommend exploring Marcillac and Gaillac wines. I'd even go so far as to say that if you're not an expert, stay away from Bordeaux, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône. You find better values and better wines for the American palate in Bergerac, Madiran, Faugères, St-Chinian, Fitou, Corbières, or VdP from Côtes de Thongue or the new Pézenas appellation.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 4:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    An interesting observation. Thanks for sharing. I love Fer, and do see the wines as being very easy to like, but I think people will continue to gravitate towards Chateauneuf and the like!

    Mar 04, 2012 at 10:31 AM

  • Snooth User: maffe
    146867 51

    Gregory, I'm sure you're right ... most people will keep knowing only the already famous names. But I'm glad every time influential guys like you write about lesser known appellations or regions that are worth discovering. I'm sure a few people will get intrigued and want to learn more.
    The problem with Languedoc and the South-West is of course the immense diversity, which makes these regions difficult to get a grip on, even when living here. Different soils, different grape varieties, different micro-climates, old family wineries and young, hungry, creative winemakers. But that also makes the wine scene very exciting here.

    Mar 04, 2012 at 5:09 PM

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