An Anniversary Celebration with La Spinetta Vürsù Gallina Barbaresco and Braised Spatchcocked Duck (#ItalianFWT)

A bottle of  Barbaresco from La Spinetta accompanies a rich duck dish for a decadent anniversary celebration!

Greg and I got together in college  . . . 21 freak’n years ago this past Thursday! I’m never quite sure how all of that time has gone by. We didn’t get married until eight years later. Since our wedding anniversary is right by Valentine’s day, and we’d always celebrated our anniversary in November, we decided to keep the habit of celebrating our original anniversary as well as our wedding anniversary, but largely skip Valentine’s. This year we’ll be celebrating over the weekend, but I also wanted to make us a nice dinner to mark the actual day. Around here that means opening a good bottle of wine to pair with the meal, and what better reason is there for breaking out a baller bottle?! I pulled out all the stops, if I do say so, and made a braised truffle duck to pair with a bottle of Barbaresco by La Spinetta I pulled from “the cellar.”


Along with Barolo, Barbaresco is one the most celebrated wines of the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. Barolo might be a bit more famous, but the wines from both regions are highly sought after. Just like Barolo, the wines of Barbaresco DOCG are made with 100% Nebbiolo, with lots of cherry, earth, and floral notes. “Tar and roses” are classic descriptors for this grape. The wines are known for being high acid and high tannin, although Barbaresc’s tannins are typically a little less aggressive than those in Barolo. This is largely due to variations in the climate and the soils. Barbaresco receives more maritime influence from the Ligurian Sea, and the climate is generally milder, warmer, and dried than Barolo’s, even if the two areas are quite near each other, only about 10 miles apart. As such, the grapes tend to ripen earlier and are less tannic. Where Barolo’s wines are known for their power, Barbaresco’s are known for their finesse. The wines from both regions are renowned for their ageability, although Barolo’s are considered to be even more long-lived, whereas Barbarescos are more approachable and ready to drink sooner. 

The wines of Barbaresco must have a minimum ABV  of 12.5% and they undergo two years of aging, one of which must be spent in wooden barrels. This increases to four years total, with one of those years in wood, for riserva wines. By contrast, Barolo requires one more year of aging in each category, reflecting the stylistic difference in the wines. 

Map borrowed from Sevenfity Daily.

For a more in-depth comparison between the two areas, check out this article from Wine Folly


Image borrowed from La Spinetta's website.

La Spinetta was founded in 1977 by Guiseppe “Pin” and Lidia Rivettti. They named their first winery in Castagnole Lanze in Asti for its location at the “top of the hill.” They started out making Moscatos, which were among Italy’s first single-vineyard Moscatos, the Moscato Bricco Quaglia and Biancospino. In time, their children Carlo, Bruno, Giorgio, and Giovanna took over the winery, with Giorgio as the head winemaker. They eventually expanded into red wines as well, first with their Barbera Cà di Pian in 1985. The first of their Barbarescos, Gallina, came a decade later. Since then they’ve expanded and purchased properties in Barolo and in Tuscany. In addition, Giorgio and his son Andrea, also purchased the historical sparkling wine house, Contratto, which we had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago.

Image borrowed from La Spinetta's website.

They farm using sustainable and organic practices (I couldn’t find clarity between the two), using no chemicals or fertilizers. They encourage extremely low yields by green harvesting grapes to encourage the remaining grapes to develop more complexity. 

Here is a video of their Gallina vineyard, the first Barbaresco property they acquired.

THE WINE & PAIRING: La Spinetta Vürsù Gallina Barbaresco 2012 with Braised Duck  

I opened my bottle of La Spinetta Vursu Gallina Barbaresco 2012 the day before we planned to drink it, so as to get a sense of the wine. It’s a pretty safe bet that a Barbaresco will be just fine if opened the day before. These wines tend to improve on the second day. 

On the first day, the wine showed a complex nose, even just after opening. I picked up the classic Nebbiolo notes of “tar and roses” on the nose, as well as black cherries, plums, black tea, tomato paste, mushrooms, orange rind, and savory herbs. On the palate, there was also a hint of smoke and a little soy sauce. The wine was round up front leading to a grippy finish with fine tannins and a savory finish. Skipping ahead, on the second day the wine opened up further and become more supple, and it gained notes of licorice and spice. In addition to those grippy tannins, the wine had loads of acidity, and while it was powerful, it wasn’t heavy. This is a characteristic I often get from Nebbiolo – they often feel less weighty on the palate to me than their tannins and alcohol would suggest. This one definitely showed a balance of power and elegance. 

This is a wine that can cut through a rich dish, and yet I didn’t think it necessarily needed beef, although it can certainly go there. My mind went to pork, game birds, and duck. I was craving duck, so that’s what I opted for. I was envisioning a braised dish bringing together some of the many flavors I tasted in the wine, however, I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I ultimately pieced together several and decided to conduct an experiment in braising a whole spatchcock duck. I also wanted to see if I could make it a one-pot meal. It all worked out quite well, however, duck does give off tons of fat. Even after straining off quite a bit after an hour of cooking, it continued to render off more and more, so I do recommend spending a bit of time skimming at the end. This is the downside to not preparing the sauce separately, however, on the upside, it was also incredibly flavorful. 

Since I was feeling decadent given the occasion, I opted to add some minced black truffles to the sauce. These are not at all required – the dish would still be delicious without them, but they came across in a nice, subtle way in the sauce. To kick the truffle factor up just bit more, I also stirred in a bit to the creamy polenta I served on the side. 

As I imagined, this was a rich and deeply flavorful dish. The wine’s bright acidity cut right through that and helped to lift our palates, while the flavors in the wine mirrored the savory notes in the food nicely.

A very happy anniversary to us!


Details are taken from tech sheets herehere, and here. (Although, note that details differ.)

Varietal: 100% Nebbiolo
Alcohol content: 14.5%
Vineyard: Gallina, Neive, south exposure
Age of vines: 50-55 years
Soil: Calcareous
Average altitude: 270 m
Winemaking: Maceration and alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled vats for an average period of 14-15 days. Malolactic fermentation done in medium toasted French oak barrels, in which 20% are new and the remaining used (2nd passage), followed by 20-22 months of aging. Finally, bottle-aged for about 6 months. The wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Average price across all vintages: $152.


I find it best to decant Nebbiolos way in advance. I opened the bottle to taste it the day before, then decanted it about 3.5 - 4 hours before drinking it, and the last half glass was still improving.


The winery also recommends this wine with risotto with porcini mushrooms and chicken cacciatore. 

This dish is likely to pair fairly easily with a number of red wines, however, look for wines with high acidity to cut through the richness of the dish. Barbera, Sangiovese, and Pinot come to mind.

duck, braise, truffles, mushrooms. tomatoes, one pot
Servings: 6
By: Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Braised Spatcocked Duck with Truffles, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Braised Spatcocked Duck with Truffles, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Prep Time: 20 MinCooking Time: 2 H & 40 MTotal Time: 3 H, plus brining time


  • 5 to 6-pound Pekin duck, giblets removed
  • 3 Tbsps kosher salt or dry brine mixture
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock, or as needed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsps flour
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 12 - 16 ounces mushrooms (a mix of baby bellas and shiitakes were used here), halved if large
  • 3 to 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 small to medium tomatoes, halved if on the smaller side, quartered if larger
  • ½ teaspoon mushroom powder, or as needed (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp jarred minced black truffles (optional)
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed


  1. Put the duck, breast side down on a cutting board. Use kitchen shears to cut along one side of the spine, starting at the tail end and all the way to the top. Turn the bird around and cut back down the other side of the spine, being careful not to cut into the thigh. Press down on the bird to flatten. Remove the neck flap and cut away any extra pockets of fat. Turn the duck over, breast side up, and score the skin and fat of each breast, making sure not to puncture the meat. Cut off the tips of the wings if desired.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of the duck with the kosher salt or brining mixture and lay the duck, breast side up in a large pan or Dutch oven. Drape paper towels loosely over the duck, or leave uncovered if preferred and place the pan in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours, or up to 3 to 4 days.
  3. Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove the duck from the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before you intend to cook it. Brush off any visible salt, drain any liquid from the bottom of the pan, and pat the duck dry with paper towels.
  4. Place the duck in the oven on the center rack and roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and continue roasting for another 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the duck from the oven and transfer onto a platter and set aside. Drain all but a couple of tablespoons of the fat from the pan and reserve for another usage. Place the pan on a stovetop and add in the onions, season with salt and pepper, and sweat over medium heat for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until beginning to turn translucent. Deglaze the pan with a little chicken stock. (If the onions are beginning to brown too quickly at any point prior to this, you can also use a little water or stock to slow down the cooking.) Add in the garlic and cook for another minute, then add in the tomato paste and the flour and mix well to combine – this will create a paste-like consistency. Continue cooking for another minute or two, then deglaze the pan again with a little more chicken stock. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, and thyme, and continue cooking for another 7 to 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to soften. Stir in the minced truffles if using and add the tomatoes to the pan. (*See notes.)
  6. Return the duck to the pan on top of the vegetable, and sprinkle the mushroom powder over the duck skin. Add enough chicken stock so that the vegetables and liquid come up about ¼ of the way up the duck. Return the duck to the oven and continue roasting for about another 45 to 60 minutes, or until an internal thermometer inserted into the thigh reaches 180°F. (Times will vary depending on the size of the duck.)
  7. If you desire crispier skin once the duck is cooked through, place it under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes. (Rotate the pan halfway through for more even cooking.)
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the duck to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Skim excess fat from the sauce, then taste and adjust seasoning. If you desire a thicker consistency for the sauce, allow it to simmer on the stovetop over medium heat while the duck rests.
  9. Cut the duck into pieces and serve with the saucy vegetables over polenta, pasta, rice, or potatoes.


In this version of the recipe, I optimized towards keeping this a one-pot meal. To speed up the timing a bit, you can cook the vegetables in a separate pan while the duck is cooking and then add them in after the excess fat has been drained. To optimize for crispier skin, cook the vegetables completely separately from the duck, making it a roast rather than a braise, and then serve them together.

Did you make this recipe?
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Check out these posts for more on Nebbiolo:


Join the rest of the Italian Food, Wine, Travel (#ItalianFWT) bloggers in exploring Barbaresco this month, and check out the rest of the group's posts:

Additional sources used for this post and extra reading:



  1. I love La Spinetta..always so recognizable with the Rhino on the label. I've tried many of their wines, but admittedly not the Barbaresco, so thanks for sharing!

  2. Congratulations on Greg and you being together for 21 years. That's fantastic, as was the way you celebrated! Cheers Nicole!

  3. What an amazing dish and pairing, truly celebratory! I love that you celebrate the day you met! I will look for an occasion worthy of this dish.

    1. Thanks Robin! It's actually the day we got together. We'd been friends for a bit before then.


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!