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NV Azienda Ag. Malvira "Birbet" Brachetto, Roero (Piemonte), Italy

Sparkling red wine? Sacre Bleu! Or in this case I guess you'd say Mizzica! or some other Italian equivalent. Yes, this really is a sparkling red wine and quite an interesting one at that. It's made by a small producer in Piemonte, Azienda Agricola Malvira. I love the name of the winery, which literally translates to "Situated Wrong," because the winery's original courtyard faced North instead of to the South as popular wisdom dictated it should. Even though the winery is in its new location along the banks of the Tanaro river in the small village of Canova, the name has stuck.

Malvira has been making wine in the region for nearly 20 years and is run by two brothers, Roberto and Massimo Damonte. Robert does the winemakeing and Massimo manages the vineyards. While they have made wine under the Malvira name for 20 years, their family has a long history of winemaking and grapegrowing -- the Brachetto grapes for this wine come from a vineyard that has been in the family for over 200 years. The winery normally produces the typical Roero wines that are characteristic of this relatively new (1985) DOC appellation -- dark Niebbolo based wines with the addition of the local varietal Arneis.

This wine, then, seems to be a fun diversion for the brothers. Made from Brachetto, known locally as Brachetto d'Acqui (literally "from here") it is actually not that unusual for the region which has a history of making red sparkling wines from this varietal which is purported to be descended from Moscato.

This wine is not labeled with any vintage year (hence the lack of a year above). I do not know what this means, but there you have it. No year on the bottle. I also don't know much about the winemaking, and frankly it probably wouldn't be all that interesting -- this is a wine that abolishes wine snobbery and demands very little. Pull some out and watch the die-hards run for the hills. Anyone left has got enough sense of humor to be worth drinking with. Approximately 1700 cases produced.

Tasting Notes:
In the glass this wine is lightly carbonated with medium sized bubbles amidst a light blood-red body tinged with brown at the rim. The bouquet of the wine is filled with aromas of tart blackberry pie, raisins, and dried strawberries. In the mouth it is effervescent, and my notes say "holy electric blackberries" with additional flavors of baked apple pie.

Food Pairing:
The only thing I could possibly think to pair with this would be something chocolate, but really I think this is best drunk as an aperitif or an after dinner drink for those, like me, who may find Cognac and Sherry distasteful.

Overall Score: 8

How Much?: $18

This wine can be tracked down through your local retailer that typically carries a lot of Italian wines, but admittedly it may be difficult to get.

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