See what our judges thought about Barbera d'Asti in this panel tasting from the May 2017 issue of Decanter magazine...
From fresh, unoaked wines to more serious, complex examples – including from the new Nizza DOCG – there’s great interest and value to be had, says John Stimpfig.
90 wines tasted
Exceptional – 0
Outstanding – 3
Highly Recommended – 28
Recommended – 37
Commended – 17
Fair – 4
Poor – 1
Faulty – 0
Andrea Briccarello, Michael Garner & Susan Hulme MW
Wine lovers now appreciate that Barbera d’Asti is much more than a simple, fresh red, and that the top wines have a very distinctive character. The tasters agreed there was also a positive ‘halo effect’ from Barbera’s association with the top Barbaresco and Barolo producers.
The wines below represent the five best scoring wines in the tasting.
Top Barbera d’Asti wines of the tasting:
A melange of dried fruit and cordial notes to start off, leading to spicy, oaky shades. The aromas and flavours are still so...
Seductive aromas of dried violets dance around the glass on first sniff. The palate is vibrant with generous dark ripe fruit content,...
Rich blackberries sprinkled with oak spice start us off here, followed by intriguing sappy flavours coated in...
An exuberant and vinous nose of blueberries and oaky-toned dark fruit flows effortlessly onto a palate full of...
Immediate sweet oak aromas come across, intermingling with blueberry jam and ripe dark cherry. Dark chocolate flavours are...
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Barbera may be versatile, but vintage still matters. The panel expected the 2015s to shine and, by and large, they did – very brightly – with lovely ripeness and juicy
freshness. By contrast, the 2014s were more lean and acidic, but still ventured several very good examples. Whilst Hulme enjoyed the impressive 2013s, not all lived up to the vintage’s very good reputation. The 2012s from that hot, dry year were a notch or two lower.
All three experts were also in unison on winemaking quality, which was both high and consistent, with few faults and good balance. Inevitably, though, the issues of
oak treatment and alcohol cropped up in the discussion. Equally inevitably, there were wines which the panel felt overwrought. ‘Some winemakers think that because
Barbera is a bit of a chameleon, you can do whatever you want to it,’ noted Briccarello. ‘The danger in that is you overdo the oak or create a tannic Cabernet
Sauvignon feel to the wine which doesn’t work because it is not really authentic.’
Several of the most ambitious wines came from the new Nizza DOCG, which did show more depth and concentration. Interestingly, this flight split the panel. Garner felt too many were ‘a little overdone’. Briccarello also wondered whether this new appellation really helped consumers or just ended up confusing them. By contrast, Hulme argued that the Nizza wines had something different to say and were a bit more ‘demanding’, which she recognised and admired.
In Piedmont, it is much loved by the locals. It is the wine they drink every day with dinner, with friends, in the summer lightly chilled; in the winter, the richer styles offer warmth and comfort.
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