Italian Indigenous Varieties: Barbera- A New Friend

I used to be a Barbera snob. I wouldn’t drink it. I thought it was too acidic without being serious. Many people I know in Italy still feel this way about Barbera. Luckily I realized the error of my ways a few years ago and am now a very happy drinker of this Piedmontese wine.

Barbera, long a grape that has been overlooked or at least underrated, is making real headway in the United States marketplace this year. The reasons are multifaceted. Key to this renewed focus on Barbera is the continuing global recession. Barbera on the whole is more economical than wines made with Nebbiolo such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara. Additionally, better quality Barbera is now widely available and there are more styles to choose from too. Add to this the fact that Barbera with its high acidity makes it a great food wine and you have a winning combination.

Barbera is also capable of much greater yields than Nebbiolo and has softer tannins than Nebbiolo and thus can be consumed earlier although really good Barbera can also be longlived.

Barbera grows in a number of regions in Italy including Piedmont, Lombardy, and Emilia Romagna. It is also planted in some of the southern regions but to a lesser degree. The grape’s popularity is such that it is also grown in California, in Argentina and in Australia where it was brought years ago by Italian immigrants.

Barbera is Italy’s second most cultivated grape (after Sangiovese). Barbera flourishs when the climate is warm but not too hot and in chalky, clay soils which abound in Italy. Documents mention the Barbera grape as far back as 1246 and 1277. These documents were found in Casale Monferrato in Piedmont.

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  1. Praise Jesus that you came to your senses about Barbera: the no-nonsense hard worker that keeps her head down and always does what she is told (and sometimes that drudgery is not pretty) while her glamorous, petulant, and somewhat morally vacuous sister, Nebbiolo, hogs the limelight and has all the boys chasing after her!

    (oh yes… we’re going to make vibrant personalities for all these grapes!)

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