When a friend casually messages, “I picked up a nice young Barbera on the road to Gundagai the other day.” It might mean one of two things. That is because Barbera (pronounced Bar-BEH-rah) is a very different story than say, Sharon’s best friend Babs. Either way, it’s probably best to assume the former was the case and reply with a smiley face and red wine emoji, then pour yourself a glass…
So who is this mysterious Barbera you were hypothetically messaged about?
Barbera is an Italian red wine varietal from the Piedmont Region. It is known for its early maturing, dark-skin fruit, high acidity and low tannin levels. It generally results in a medium bodied wine with characteristic cherry and plum fruit flavours, and according to Wine Folly, “…Barbera wine tastes both rich and light-bodied,” – an appealing trait that has aided in its widespread planting, rise in popularity and its endless food matching possibilities.
Very early on, in the 13th Century in fact, Monferrato locals claimed Barbera as one of their favourite varieties alongside the likes of Nebbiolo. They set about planting, harvesting, fermenting and perfecting it – and today it is still one of Italy’s most widely planted grape varieties. Dotted amongst castles and celebrated restaurants, the Barbera d’Asti and Nizza plantings have yielded some of the most celebrated examples of the variety, including Olim Bauda, Sant’Emiliano, Bava and Braida.
Following the footsteps of many Italian migrants, Barbera can now also be found in a number of New World wine countries too, such as here in Australia, Argentina and California. As Vinodiversity acknowledges, its new locations have created a revival of interest, “New methods including yield restrictions and barrel maturation have created what amounts to a new style.” In fact, even the likes of wine guru Jancis Robinson acknowledges the rise in popularity Barbera is experiencing, “No grape has known such a dramatic upgrade in its fortunes and image in the last 20 years than Barbera…”
The variety’s success in places like Gundagai is largely due to its unique climate being very similar to that of Barbera’s homeland. Piedmont, situated in northern Italy, actually means ‘foot of the mountain’ and is almost entirely surrounded by Alps, just as Gundagai is nestled at the foothills of New South Wales’ picturesque Snowy Mountains (otherwise known as the Australian Alps). But whether in Italy or Gundagai, the Barbera vines enjoy the warm valley micro-climate, which helps beautifully maintain acidity in the fruit.
Its solid reputation as an adaptable and flexible variety is not just for its revered Old World and New World styles either, but also for its suitability to impress alongside a host of delicious cuisines. True to its origins, Barbera is the perfect centrepiece for Mediterranean feasts and accompaniment to classic Italian fare, such as pork and fennel sausages, antipasto pizza, and wild mushroom risotto – and as luck would have it our recent release, Barbera 2016, is just as the label suggests, perfect for a Table of Plenty. Saluti!