Barbera wines are a perfect tribute to an icon and his pizza

Lincoln, NE – The recent passing of Tony Messineo the frontman for Valentino’s Pizza makes my heart heavy. Messineo is a pizza legend. He was generous and kind to his fellow man, and went out of his way to do good for those around im. His genuine smile and infectious laughter brought people together. He approached his pizza business with a passion and zeal that made a lasting impression on all of those around him. He will be missed. I celebrate my memories of him with this column.

Barbera is a common grape primarily grown in the Piedmont region in the far Northwest of Italy. Barbera wines are perfect to pair with pizza, especially those with lots of cheese. Good Barbera has appealing fruit characteristics and has low tannins and high acidity that makes it blend nicely with cheesy and meaty pizza. It’s the perfect wine to attempt to do justice to Messineo’s creation.

I ordered a Valentino’s cheese pizza to pair with the Barbera wines I selected. The pizza has a pastry-like crust that is golden brown on the outer edge. It is layered thick with mozzarella cheese that is caramelized to an enticing brown on top of rich pizza sauce that has a hint of sweetness. The combination of flavors makes this a wine and pizza lover’s dream.

I started with De Forville Barbera D’ Asti, 2019, Piedmont, Italy, $24.00. This wine is produced by a multi-generational wine making family, with a female family member currently at the helm of the winemaking process. The winery is located in the town center of the village of Barbaresco. The wine is garnet in the glass and offers floral notes of lilac, accentuated by raspberry, and cherry notes. In the mouth, the wine approaches the palate with ripe red fruit
including cherry and pomegranate. It’s a wine with vibrant acidity and character. Delicious wine. 89 points

Next, I tried Gozzelino Barbera D’ Asti Superiore, 2016, Piedmont, Italy, $24.00. As a Superiore, the wine is aged in large oak barrels for over a year before bottling. Gozzelino Barbera D’ Asti Superiore is grown on a majestic estate located near the village of Asti. It’s operated by a fifth-generation winemaker. The wine is garnet, with scents of raspberry, vanilla, and ethereal spice note reminiscent of cloves. It has medium body and tame acidity that allows the flavors of blackberry, deep cherry, and red currant to shine. The fruit notes take the spotlight. 89 points

The last wine is Ettore Germano Barbera d’ Alba, 2022, Piedmont, Italy, $27.50. This is a family-owned estate located near the village of Serralunga where we visited in October. The view from the apex of their vineyards is majestic. You see oceans of grapevines as far as the eye can see. It’s remarkable that the primary caretakers and producers of this wine has been a small family since 1856. This wine is ruby red in the glass, the nose is compelling with aromas of sweet cherry, blackberry, and vanilla. The wine is clean and fresh in the mouth, with expressive blackberry, cassis, and boysenberry. The wine has subtle acidity, and it glides in a smooth and delicate manner. It has a pleasing finish that lingers. 90 points

All three of these wines were captivating with the Valentino’s cheese pizza but the De Forville Barbera D’ Asti was my clear favorite. The acidity of the wine dissipated on contact with the mouth after each bite of the cheesy pizza. This wine brought out even more flavors from the slightly sweet tomato sauce that lifted the flavor of the pizza even more. It was a perfect storm where two delightful components of the meal made each other even better.

Tony Messineo will be missed by the Lincoln community, but he is one person who leaves a positive legacy and lasting memories through his life’s work.

Mark McDonald and his wife, Kim, own The Italian Vine, a Lincoln-based wine distributorship.

For more information on these wines, including where you can find them in Lincoln or Omaha, email

The Italian Vine


5612 South  49th Street

Lincoln, Nebraska 68516