John Paul Kaminga
Tiny Dancers: Ballarin Cino
The Viberti family has long been known as "ballarin" or "dancers" to the people of Barolo, and their winery goes by this local nickname, hence Cascina Ballarin. There's not a lot of wine made at Ballarin; they are truly one of the little guys in the region, but there's a fair amount of variety, and from top to bottom, the whole roster is worthwhile. Their entry-level red is called Cino, named for a great uncle, and it is a baffling little wine. Why? Because it is so good and so inexpensive. A blend of Barbera, Nebbiolo and Dolcetto from the communes of La Morra, Monforte d'Alba and Novello, it shares some of the same aromas and flavors that you would find in a fine Barolo, but in a less serious style. It is lighter, with gentler acids and far less tannin. The 2017 vintage of Cino is beautiful, full of fresh ripe berry notes as well suspicions of flowers, herbs and spice. Juicy and straightforward, it's a great alternative to inexpensive Pinot Noir*. It's fruit forward and easy-going, a versatile red at the table. Enjoy it with pizza, pasta, or the classic Piemontese dish of Vitello Tonnato.
Cascina Ballarin Langhe Rosso 'Cino' 2017 - $13
* We often recommend light reds from Europe in place of inexpensive domestic Pinot Noir. We do this not because we believe that Garnacha, Dolcetto d'Alba or Bardolino tastes like fine Pinot, but because most inexpensive Pinot is highly manipulated and likely blended with other grapes. Too much inexpensive Pinot just doesn't taste like Pinot. Why not drink delicious light wines made by small family-owned wineries using their own estate-grown grapes? In this category, you can often find something organic and made with great care for less than $20. Now, more than ever, it is important to support small wineries, and life is too short to drink Pinot mixed with Merlot. Start ignoring wine that was obviously made just to sell something. Start paying attention to authentic wines that will not cost you much.