Wine Profile: Barbera
The world’s sixth most planted red-wine variety is Barbera. And if that surprises you a little because you don’t see it around that much or don’t drink it often, then don’t worry. Up until quite recently most of the Barbera produced in Italy, as elsewhere, was uninteresting and bland. Luckily though, today improved planting techniques and decreased yields have proved that it is actually a delicious, juicy, and highly drinkable red wine.
There is very little of Barbera planted in the world, outside of Italy. The only real exception to this rule is California. In fact, it most likely arrived in California with Italian immigrants. The California examples are still rich, full-bodied expressions of the grape. However, they tend to lack some of the zippy acidity of their Italian counterparts.
In Italy, specifically, Piedmont, is Barbera’s true home. In fact, Piedmont’s most widely planted red grape is Barbera. And it’s true that the infamous Barolo and Barbaresco, two Nebbiolo based wines, may outshine Barbera’s name and reputation. But the cheeky Italian’s have a saying, Barolo and Barbaresco are for selling, and Barbera is for drinking.
BARBERA – INVERSE NEBBIOLO
Because Barbera is actually the opposite of the famous Nebbiolo wines. Those wines are all strong tannins and require long aging before they are ready to drink. Barbera, on the other hand, is naturally high in acid with rich, bright flavors of blackberry, cherry, chocolate, black plum, and ripe figs. Well made examples of the wines have a mouthfeel like velvet and are a surprisingly bright magenta color.
It’s the naturally high acidity that makes Barbera, as with so many Italian wines, such a great wine for food pairing. Actually, even more than Sangiovese, Barbera is famous for its ability to pair with red sauces. In fact, it’s known for it. So you’re welcome for finding you the perfect pizza wine. Actually, a lot of comfort foods are perfect with this wine. Think burgers and meatloaf. But, if you’re looking for something a little more elevated then look no further than your favorite charcuterie plate.
And last, but certainly not least, Barbera is one of the red wines out there that can make an excellent match with a meaty white fish. The wine has low enough tannins and all that acidity to match well with the fish flavors without overpowering it.