Barbera is often referred to as “the little brother to Barolo”. This reference is based on the fact that they grow side by side in the same regions of Piedmont, Italy. However, these two wines are quite different. Barbera wines produced in the Piedmont region of Italy are highly consumed by the people of this region. Based on its popularity and high consumption it is known as the “People’s Wine”. Italy, like France, makes wine a part of their normal everyday life. Wine is consumed during meals as well as in between.
Though this grape has roots to ancient times the earliest documentation places this varietal’s origin in the Piedmont region of Italy. Barbera is the third most commonly planted varietal in Italy with the highest concentration of vines being grown in the Alba and Asti regions of Piedmont. Like the French, Italy places the region that the wine is from on the label. For example, two common Barbera wines are Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti – where d’Alba and d’Asti are the regions of Piedmont where the wines are from.
Young Barbera will display flavors of bright cherries where with age the cherry flavor will become sour or tart. Plum flavors may also be noted. Barbera wines have low to mild tannins and high acidity providing crispness to the wine. Variations in Barbera wines can also be found based on the oak barrels they are aged in. Large oak cask provide little oak flavor where smaller barrels provide more oak influence to the wine.
Wine Searcher says, ” As with Nebbiolo, there is considerable debate over how Barbera is best treated; traditionalists favor longer maceration and less oak, while modernists champion rounder, more approachable styles softened by barrel maturation.”
To get an understanding of Barbera wines, the following examples were poured:
2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti
- Aromatics – Sweet flowers
- Palate – Tart red fruit with medium to high tannins
2009 Pelissero Barbera d’Alba Piani
- Aromatics – Fresh cut flowers, red fruits and spice
- Palate – Medium body, red fruits and spice. Dominant tannins with a long finish
2008 Domini Villae Lanata Lo Zoccolaio Sucule Barbera d’Alba
- Aromatics – Oak
- Palate – Brooding dark fruits, balanced tannins and medium to high acidity
The Grape of the Night (GOTN) tasting group I lead discovered that the Barbera wines are very enjoyable and have a lot to offer. They can be paired with foods or enjoyed by themselves. The wines brought by GOTN folks validated that there are two primary DOCs in Piedmont: Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti. The Barbera wines of Asti are generally fruitier, but less structured than wines from Alba according to literature. I am not sure this was seen in our wines poured at GOTN as our sample size was small.
Fantastic evening with a terrific host named Barbera. It was great seeing the group step outside of the box (self included) and sample what I consider a very interesting and fantastic wine from Italy. Hopefully this adventure through wines will never end. There are so many to discover.
Thank you Valencia Wine Company (VWC) for hosting our GOTN group. It is here that I have strengthened my education on wines over the years. That philosophy, shared by owner Guy Lelarge, continues today at VWC helping Santa Clarita to grow in wine knowledge. I hope to see everyone at our next GOTN.