The Three Sisters of Barbera
Barbera is a red Italian wine grape variety which is believed to have originated in the hills of Monferrato in central Piemonte, Italy in around the thirteenth century. The wine is deep in color with low tannins and high levels of acidity, which is very unusual for a warm climate red grape. There are many old-vine vineyards with century old vines that produce a wine with enhanced tannin content, robust body and an intense dark cherry and berry fruit. These wines are made for aging.
The oldest is Barbera del Monferrato. Due to its harsh acidic content and rusticity, this wine is mainly used for blends with other local varieties. Rules allow dor up to 15% of Dolcetto, Freisa and Grignolino to be added to a wine labeled Monferrato DOC. Interestingly this wine can be slightly sparkling.
The Best known appellation of the sisters is the Barbera d’Asti DOCG. When young, the wines offer a very intense aroma of fresh red and blackberries. In the lightest versions it exhibits notes of cherries, raspberries and blueberries and with notes of blackberry and black cherries offered in the wines made of more ripe grapes.
Barbera d’Alba is the most under estimated of the three. Personally it is my favorite, but don’t we always cheer for the loosing team? Stylistically this is a richer and more fruit forward wine than it’s Asti sister. The concentration reminds me of veal jus, with dark cherry and black fruit characteristics, finished with a touch of herb and spice. The notes that will remind you of freshly shaved truffles found in the same Alba region.
Barberas are known for their incredible value, amazing ability to pair with a range of foods and their easy to drink style. I recommend that wine lovers who haven’t tried Barbera visit a local wine store and pick up a bottle to see just how flexible and diverse these wines are. Start with a simple tomato salad with little bit of fresh mozarella di buffala and sprig of basil, continue with veal cannelloni in a light tomato sauce or a fillet of Branzino in a light caper and olives tomato sauce, and finish up with an aged piece of Grana Padano cheese with some honey and dried fruit. You’ll find these great, diverse wines, will take you through the entire meal.
Blog by: Otta Zapotocky, General Manager and Sommelier at Wildfire Steakhouse and Wine Bar