The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

All About Barbera DOC

Posted on | April 11, 2016 | Written by IWM Staff | No Comments

A cluster of Barbera grapes

A cluster of Barbera grapes

Historically known as “the people’s grape,” and currently recognized as the “fun” alternative to Piemonte’s more austere Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco, the wines of Piemonte’s Barbera DOCs offer an easy-going, cheerfully acidic and very tasty way to experience the renowned region. The most widely grown varietal in Piemonte, there are two Barbera DOCs, Barbera d’AlbaBarbera del Monferrato, and one Barbera DOCG, Barbera d’Asti.

All three of these designations intersect with Piemonte’s Barolo regions because traditionally Barbera was planted along with Nebbiolo to provide an earlier ripening, and less finicky, crop of fruit—which means that Barbera is often crafted by Barolo producers. All three Barbera areas not only overlap Barolo regions, but they also touch borders with one another, suggesting just how intermarried they are. History indicates that Barbera arrived first in Monferrato in the late eighteenth century, but the grape’s longevity in all three regions is undeniable.

Wines from all three areas tend to be ruby-red and rustic in nature, showcasing a fresh red-fruit palate, and accented by a pointy acidity. Recent changes in viticultural techniques, however, have allowed producers to grow more fruit-forward grapes with a slightly lowered acidity. Regulations require Barbera d’Alba to be entirely composed of Barbera, while both Barbera d’Asti and Barbera del Monferrato may add up to 15% of Freisa, Grignolino and/or Dolcetto. All three wines gain the status of superiore when aged for twelve months or longer.

Barbara d’Asti has gained much in its Barbera reputation for its Nizza sub-region, which not only has sunnier exposure than other regions but also a stricter set of regulations. Many producers, especially in Asti, have been experimenting with aging in barrique in order to tame the acidity, to add tannins, and to create a plusher, rounder and silkier Barbera. Though Barberas do differ from region to region and producer to producer, one thing is true: regardless which Barbera you choose, you’ll get an ideal food wine, one that cuts through the tang of tomato-based pasta sauces and complements all barbecue with equal aplomb.

For a full range of IWM’s fine Barbera wines, please go here. 

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