Although Nebbiolo often steals the show, it’s Barbera that keeps the locals coming back for more. Synonymous with the refreshing, easy-drinking red wines of Alba and Asti, this indigenous Piedmontese grape is one of Italy’s most widely cultivated red grape varieties.
Barbera’s main home is Piedmont, though the grape is also commonly found in Emilia-Romagna, Campania and Puglia.
Barbera is a dark-skinned variety known for producing wines low in tannins and high in acid – the former of which sets it most apart from the robustly tannic Nebbiolo-based wines of the region.
When consumed in their youth, wines made from Barbera often show flavours of bright cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and plums. The grape is believed to have originated in Piedmont’s Monferrato region, where it still has a strong presence today.
On the vine, Barbera is somewhat of a late-ripening variety and tends to be picked about one to two weeks after Dolcetto. The variety is known for its pronounced levels of acidity and relatively light tannins.
The variety is very vigorous and tends to produce hearty yields. When attentively pruned, Barbera grapes will show higher levels of concentration. Barbera is quite adaptable to a variety of soil types, though it tends to prefer those with less fertility (think calcareous or clay-loam soils). Additionally, Barbera is quite resistant to mildew, which makes it a favourable choice among growers in climates that suit it. In the cellar, most Barbera wines usually see at least a bit of oak ageing, though steel-vinified expressions are available.
Recently, Barbera has also gained some significant international traction. The grape has a noticeable presence in Australia, South America, California, and South Africa.
In Italy, Barbera is still a go-to daily drinker for many families, due in part to its attractive price point and easy drinkability.