- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Poderi Colla, Barbera d’Alba “Costa Bruna,” 2004, $24

Serious red wines frequently fare poorly this time of year, particularly when faced with East Coast heat and humidity. They often taste hot and heavy, echoing rather than relieving the steamy conditions. The culprit is tannin, that astringent component from grape skins (and from oak barrels) that gives red wines structure and definition. On a sticky, sultry July evening, sipping a tannic red can feel something like drinking mud.

The problem, of course, is that many summer foods, particularly those cooked on a grill, call for red wines. Steaks and burgers, barbecued chicken, even cedar-planked salmon — these all may seem too hearty to pair successfully with whites.

One solution is to look for lighter reds that are naturally low in tannin, wines that delight with fresh fruit flavors and that display little if any oak.

Beaujolais from northern France is often a good choice, as is Barbera from Piedmont in Italy. Both can be served slightly chilled, making them even more refreshing in summer.

Poderi Colla’s Costa Bruna Barbera d’Alba offers vibrant plum and berry fruit flavors, with just enough tannin to stay in focus but not enough to make the wine seem ponderous.

It should age well and surely will develop more nuanced secondary flavors with time in bottle, but its vivacious personality is what makes it such an appropriate choice this time of year. (Imported by Empson USA.)

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