Barbera is both the name of a grape and of the red wine it produces. Its ancestral home is in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, from the vineyards around the towns of Asti, Alexandria and Casale Monferrato.
You’ll find my Top 10 Barbera reviews and ratings here.
5 Surprising Facts about Barbera:
1. Unlike Barolo and Barberesco, Barbera is not considered a classic grape. It is Italy’s most common red grape.
2. In 1985 Barbera producers added methanol to their wines. Thirty people died as a result, and many were left with affected sight including blindness. The fallout from bad press led to a decline in Barbera sales and catapulted Montelpulciano to #2 in Italy behind Sangiovese.
3. Barbera is a fairly light-bodied wine with mouth-watering acidity, a bit of tannin and is best consumed young.
Barbera is a very vigorous vine and grape producer. Constant pruning of the vines ensures better quality and flavours.
Barbera grapes have black skins, the wine has a deep magenta colour, medium body, high acidity and low tannins.
4. Young Barbera delivers intense dark fruit aromas of raspberries, cassis, chocolate, tar and plum. Lighter-style Barbera offers cherry, raspberry, blueberry and fig.
Many Barbera producers age the wine in toasted oak to impart complexity, aromas and age worthiness.
5. Barbera ripens two weeks earlier than the other Piedmont favourite grape, Nebbiolo. For this reason, Barbera is planted lower down the south-facing hillsides. Harvest of Barbera grapes usually takes place from late September to early October.
Some winemakers are experimenting with harvesting Barbera a little later to increase sugar levels, making the wine more fruit forward and robust.
Barbera is believed to have originated in Monferrato, a small town in Northern Italy. In the 19th and 20th century, Italian immigrants brought Barbera to the other parts of the world.
Napa and Sonoma in California have successful Barbera plantings. In Australia, Barbera has had success in Victoria and New South Wales. Other small successes include South Africa and Argentina.
Recent DNA testing suggests Barbera may also be related to the French and Spanish grape Mourvedre.
Barbera’s high acidity and magnificent magenta colour has historically been used in Barolo and Barberesco to add more depth of colour and body to the naturally lighter Nebbiolo wine. Today, this practice is prohibited.
The two regions that produce the most outstanding Barbera wines are from DOC Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba zones of Piedmont.
Barbera pairs well with antipasto, beef, chicken, pasta with cream-based sauce, pizza, pork, spicy sauces, meaty tomato-based sauces, veal, vegetables and salads.
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