Many consider Riccardo Guerrieri’s nearly all-Italian wine list at Divino to be among the best in Houston.
Certified sommelier and Italian wine buyer Riccardo Guerrieri has worked in the wine industry for more than five years. He currently runs the Italian wine programs at Vinology, one of Houston’s leading wine bars and shops, and Divino Ristorante, one of the city’s legacy Italian restaurants and one of its most beloved. Many consider his nearly all-Italian wine list at Divino to be among the best in the city.
What was your first experience with Barbera d’Asti?
My first experience was recent. It was when I moved to the U.S. five years ago. I didn’t know a lot about Italian wines. Patrick [his boss, owner of Divino Ristorante and Vinology in Houston] received an allocation [from a top producer] of Barbera d’Asti and those were some of the first Barbera d’Asti wines I ever tasted.
I also tasted a lot Barbera d’Asti for my sommelier certification. It’s a wine that’s used as an example of acidity in Italian wine.
What do you like about Barbera d’Asti as opposed to other top Italian grape varieties?
Compared to Nebbiolo, I like it because it’s rounder and softer. It’s easy to sell as an everyday wine. And it’s spectacularly good with food.
Barbera is often called “the ultimate food wine,” thanks to its freshness, bright fruit flavors, and versatility. What do like to pair with Barbera d’Asti? What’s your favorite traditional pairing and your favorite creative pairing?
Traditional? That’s easy. It’s perfect for pizza. Because the acidity in the wine goes so well with the tomato sauce. But I also like to pair it with game, especially venison [which is very popular in Texas]. Barbera d’Asti is a good friend for food.
Are your guests familiar with Barbera d’Asti?
Yes, they are. The majority of guests are familiar with Barbera but to be honest they don’t recognize the difference between Alba and Asti.
What’s your advice to Barbera d’Asti producers on how to reach American sommeliers and consumers?
Honestly, I don’t think it will be a problem if [producers] raise their prices. But you have to explain why. You have to invest in quality. If your wine is a single-vineyard [designate] and has structure and body and is elegant, you can stand out from other kinds of wine and you can also compete. Specify the vineyard. It doesn’t matter what kind of wood you are using. But you need to highlight the connection between the wine and the terroir. You have to describe the soil and the region. You need to emphasize the connection between Asti and the wine.