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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Barbera---the Other Red Wine of Piedmont

Barbera is a type of grape and a wine.  The varietal is grown in several parts of Italy, however, it reaches rock-star status in the northwest district of Piedmont.  Native to Piedmont, Barbera is often considered less prestigious than the area’s Barolo & Barbaresco (see my last BLOG posting).  Nonetheless, Barbera is an appealing alternative as it can be drunk much younger.

Barbera is a varietal of interesting contradictions.  Its skin is rich with dark pigments which results in deeply colored wine.  The first incongruity relates to its color;  looking at this very dark red wine one expects it to have lots of tannins (that mouth-puckering feeling of astringency), but, surprisingly, it has very few tannins.  Another contradiction is the grape has lots of acids (which result in a “crisp” taste to the wine).   High acids are more commonly found in white varietals.   If one were blind-folded and tasted Barbera you would think it was a white wine because on its low tannins and high acids (crispness), both associated with whites.  

I’m a raving fan of the Barbera varietal in Piedmont because of its rich berry-cherry and spicy flavors.  Also, due to its high acids, it pairs beautifully with the region’s hearty food.   It doesn’t age as well as its counterparts Barolo and Barbaresco, however, many Piedmont producers are now aging Barbera in wooden casks which imparts tannin to the wine---this increases the wine’s longevity, as well adds further complexity.

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