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How to match Barbera wines with food

Expert advice on foods that go well with a glass of Barbera.

Created by Decanter in partnership with the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti & Monferrato.

Created by Decanter in partnership with the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti & Monferrato.

Barbera provides red wines with texturally smooth, dark plum flavours which are brought to life by this grape variety’s vibrant, crunchy acidity.

Whether one goes for an oaked Barbera d’Asti or an unoaked one is a matter of taste, but generally the unoaked versions– or those aged in larger oak vats or botti grandi rather than smaller barrels– give a bit more flexibility with food by letting Barbera do what it does best–to lift a dish, but never to dominate it.

The classic dish for Barbera d’Asti in its native Piemonte is a very thin, tagliatelle-like ribbon pasta called ‘Tajarin’.

Broadly speaking there are two main local options when it comes to the pasta sauce.

Barbera and truffles

The vegetarian option is based on shavings of the local white truffles. Because Barbera’s red fruit flavours are agreeably subtle they allow those expensively pungent truffle aromas or flavours all the air space they need.

And Barbera’s cleansing effect is also helpful because it allows one to savour the truffle anew with each mouthful.

Barbera and meat 

The carnivorous option for the pasta is a ragù or meat sauce based on the local beef. Here the Barbera comes into its own, lifting the delicate sweetness of what is a lean meat without dominating either its texture or in the case of white veal its very subtle flavours.

It’s only further south in Italy that meat-based pasta sauces start getting loaded with tomato. As tomato is quite acidic this can work against Barbera d’Asti’s own crisp mouthfeel.

Better to let Barbera cut through fattier meats like duck–a sumptuous magret de canard or roast duck would do nicely, as of course would roast pork–or leaner meats like rabbit (stewed, or even barbecued), or more simply cold cuts with toasted bread drizzled with olive oil, with some knobs of softish and neutralish cheese on standby. And some juicy green olives to gently re-set the palate.

Fish: Go for white fish over shellfish

Matching red wines with fish is a Holy Grail for some, but Barbera d’Asti can struggle, especially with shellfish for example, making the latter taste metallic and dry.

White fish is a better option, especially the more robustly textured ones such as salt cod or ‘bacalà’, especially if the cod is prepared with roast peppers rather than tomatoes.

This article was created by Decanter.com editorial in partnership with the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti & Monferrato.


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