A Mini-Guide to Barbera Wines

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Photo from Chiara Bigaran, Creative Commons Photo from Chiara Bigaran, Creative Commons

Piemonte is famous for its Nebbiolo-based wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, but for a more approachable wine from this region, we recommend the fruitier and more acidic Barbera.

Barbera was once regarded as quite ordinary, and this light, tart wine, a lighter alternative to Nebbiolo, was the everyday drink on Piemontese tables as far back as the fifteenth century. Additionally, from its early days, Barbera was grown on the “leftover” land and therefore sold cheaper and for more immediate drinking, requiring less aging in oak barrels.

These days, the hilly landscape of sandy, calcareous soil still lends a brisk acidity, tamer tannins and a lighter body to Barbera, making it a perfect balance of juicy yet bitter, fruity yet savory. Bottles are often labeled with the specific region in which the grapes were grown (i.e. Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato.)

Photo from Adam Wyles, Creative Commons

Barbera d’Alba wines tend to have a deeper color and express more powerful fruit, while Barbera d’Asti are often brighter in color and more elegant on the palate.

Additionally, the Barbera d’Asti allows for up to 10% of non-aromatic black grape blending varietals, depending on the DOCG quality standard of the label. Meanwhile, the Barbera d’Alba DOC can also be blended with up to 15% Nebbiolo varietal.

Barbera wines rely on oak for aroma, as they are less flavorful grapes than Nebbiolo, but the notable structure in Barbera truly comes from the striking acidity, which gives it a fresh flavor and cuts through rich and fatty foods. Barberas are best drunk with food and pair well with tomato dishes, like pizzas and pastas, and even go well with fatty meats and braised vegetables. When tasting an Old World Barbera, particularly those from Piemonte, look for a slightly tannic mouth feel, often with hints of black cherry, vanilla, blackberry, and spices.

Barbera "knows how to compete"

Read more about Barbera in the vineyards, on the table, and in recent history in Barbera, the Lady in Red from crisis to rebirth.

Last modified onMonday, 19 April 2021 22:20
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