Most people immediately think of iconic names like Chianti, Sangiovese, or the regal Brunello di Montalcino when it comes to Italian wines. However, there's one grape variety that often stays under the radar but deserves its moment in the spotlight - Barbera.
Hailing from the picturesque vineyards of Piedmont, Barbera is Italy's hidden gem, waiting to be discovered by wine enthusiasts worldwide.
In this blog post, we will delve into the intriguing world of Barbera wine, exploring its history, characteristics, and why it should be on your must-try list.
A Brief History of Barbera
Barbera, believed to have originated in the hills of Monferrato in Piedmont, North-West Italy, has a long and storied history dating back centuries. While exact records are scarce, it's clear that Barbera has been cultivated in the region since at least the 13th century, and over the years, it has evolved from a simple, everyday table wine into a distinguished varietal.
What Does Barbera Taste Like?
One of the most captivating aspects of Barbera is its wide-ranging flavour profile, which can vary depending on where it's grown and how it's produced. However, some common characteristics make Barbera stand out:
Barbera is renowned for its vibrant acidity, making it exceptionally food-friendly. The zesty acidity balances the wine's rich fruit flavours, creating a harmonious palate experience.
You can expect Barbera to exhibit lush fruit with flavours of red and black cherries, raspberries, and sometimes even hints of plum or blackberry. This fruit-forward nature makes Barbera incredibly approachable.
Barbera is a relatively thin-skinned grape; as such, tannins are typically medium to medium(-). Unlike other thin-skinned grapes, Barbera wines have a deep ruby, almost bordering on purple, hue given the grape's dark pigment.
Depending on the winemaking techniques and terroir, you will detect robust floral notes. Floral aromas are mostly of rose, but scents of Hidcote Lavender also show up.
Understanding The Label
Barbera comes in various styles, each offering a unique experience. Often, the styles can be attributed to terroir discernible by the DOC or DOCG name on the label.
Below are a few designated areas you may see on the label of a bottle of Barbera wine and what you could expect:
Known for its bright acidity and bold fruit flavours, Barbera d'Asti is a prime example of this varietal. These wines are often aged in stainless steel and display the tipicity of Barbera one expects; high acidity, lush fruit, and low tannins.
Slightly lighter and more delicate than Barbera d'Asti, Barbera d'Alba wines maintain the varietal's signature acidity while showcasing more pronounced herbal and earthy notes.
Barbera del Monferrato
This versatile style of Barbera can range from fresh and lively to full-bodied and robust, depending on the producer's preferences.
These wines are aged longer and often come from the best Barbera vineyards. They boast greater depth and complexity, making them ideal for aging. Barbera Superiore wines also spend time in oak. Expect to see greater tannins, vanilla, and mocha elements due to oak aging.
Barbera from Nizza, also known as Barbera d'Asti Nizza or simply Nizza DOCG, is a specific designation of Barbera wine produced in the Nizza subregion within the larger Barbera d'Asti DOCG. This designation is known for producing some of the finest Barbera wines.
With a Nizza Barbera, you can expect prominent notes of ripe red and black fruits, such as cherries, raspberries, and blackberries. These fruit flavours are often the star of the show, while the wines acidity tempers all oak elements seen in the wine from oak aging.
To Sum It All Up
In the world of wine, Barbera is a hidden gem that deserves more attention. Its lively acidity, luscious fruit flavours, and food-friendly nature make it a delightful choice for newcomers to Italian wines and seasoned connoisseurs. So, the next time you're exploring the world of wine, don't forget to seek out a bottle of Barbera and savour the essence of Piedmont in every glass.