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.

The scores:

90 wines tasted

Exceptional – 0
Outstanding – 3
Highly Recommended – 28
Recommended – 37
Commended – 17
Fair – 4
Poor – 1
Faulty – 0

How to read Decanter wine scores

The judges:

Andrea Briccarello, Michael Garner & Susan Hulme MW


Click here to view the tasting notes and scores for all 90 Barbera d’Asti tasted


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:


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The vintages

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.

Winemaking

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.’

Nizza

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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