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Grape of the Week: Barbera

I found Barbera early in my wine career when I was stocking our Italian section. We received a new brand, and I had never heard of the wine Barbera before. So, being the scholarly type person that I am, I decided to look it up in my Wine Bible.

Yes, there is a book called "The Wine Bible" and it is by Karen MacNeil. You can usually get it on Amazon for under $15 new. I found a brand new copy at a used bookstore for (wait for it...) $1.00 😱😱😱

Anyway, I learned that it is the third most planted grape in Italy, and it grows very well here in California, as well as Australia. It is an ancient varietal and wine that dates back to the 7th Century. However, quality Barberas are a recent development of the post World War II era.

On the nose, Barberas tend to be more perfumey, and smell like roses, white cherries, or strawberries. On the palate, Barbera's acidity wakes up your senses and allows you to taste the tart or sour cherry, light strawberry and hints of anise and vanilla.

I do not normally discuss the wine's color, but it is important to note that Barbera can be deceiving due to its inky, dark coloring. One would expect it to be a heavy flavored and very tannic wine. However, it is low in tannin, but high in acidity. I tend to liken it to a very dark, acidic Pinot Noir with a smooth finish to it.

It took me some time to get acquainted with and to appreciate a good Barbera. However, it is now one of my favorite "go to" food pairing wines.

If you are looking for a perfect wine to pair with "surf-&-turf" (steak & lobster), look no further than Barbera. The acidity in Barbera cuts through the fats in both the steak and the buttery lobster, while the fruit notes contrast the lobster and compliment the steak. It also pairs well with savory soups and rich cheeses (Bleu cheese), rich meats like lamb and venison, and braised vegetables. It is a very versatile, and food friendly wine, so go ahead, be adventurous and try it with whatever you are having.

Price range: $10-$30 (depending on region)

I recommend trying Casteggio's Barbera.


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