Barbera is an Italian red wine and the most widely planted variety in the northern Piedmont region yet slightly lesser in central and southern Italy. Additional areas it can be found would be Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Uruguay, as well as widely grown in the Central And Napa Valleys of California. Although the popularity for this grape is increasing with winemakers and growers, it has been second fiddle to Nebbiolo, which is considered the king of red grapes in this region for many years. Fifteen times more land is now planted with Barbera vines than Nebbiolo, Barbera d’Asti and Barbera del Monferrato.
What is Barbera?
The Barbera grape is known for its high acidic level and low tannins. The berry is a dark ruby color and produces a wine that is fruity and floral to the nose. Naturally it has a light flavor and no distinctive color, and is it often blended with other varieties. This is frequently how the grape is used. On its own it makes versatile dry, sweet and sparkling red wines. It does not age well and is best when consumed within a few years of bottling.
Barbera vines are generally reliable for its production in a wide variety of soil types and thankfully said to be highly resistant to fungal disease. The high acid content assists the grape to fair well in hot climates. When young, the berries are deep and purplish black, but will tend to brown early and lighten as they age. In order to stabilize the color, the tannin from oak aging will help. The warmer temperature and oak aging will enhance the usually indistinct aroma of the Barbera allowing a ripe red fruit or blackberry aroma with traces of vanilla, or smokiness from the barrels. In some regions of California the warm days that are offset by the cooler nights have been known to produce some of that areas best varieties of Barberas.
Best food pairing choices?
The high acidic level and savory flavor of Barbera will allow it to pair well with Italian cuisine, of course. It will mate well with most tomato and herb based sauces and its depth will match that of mushroom or olive dishes. The acid of the wine will compliment fattier foods like roasted duck, lamb or veal choices. And surprisingly, the wine would not overpower a complimentary citrus sauce on a roasted duck entree.