Barbera is an
ancient variety with its historical roots in
Italy, where today it remains the second most
widely planted red variety, after sangiovese.
quality Barberas come from the Piedmont region,
where it is the most widely planted variety, with fifteen times more acreage is devoted to
it than to nebbiolo. Often barbera is blended into nebbiolo to bring softer mouthfeel and deeper color to the latter.
The grape even lends it name to many Italian vineyard classifications. Barbera d'Asti and
Barbera del Monferrato each produce about
three times as much wine as Barbera
d'Alba. Barbera-based Colli Tortonesi is produced in
such small quantities it is rarely found outside
its own region. Barbera is also produced in
Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Sardinia.
Apart from Italy, barbera
is grown in Argentina and Slovenia and is the fifth most
widely planted variety in California, where it was introduced in the 1880s, by John Doyle, an early proponent of increasing California wine quality.
Barbera vines are popular
with growers, strong, vigorous and reliably productive in a wide variety
of soils and also highly resistant to fungal diseases. The barbera vine is even less affected than other varieties by such recurring notable dangers such as hail and frost. The
fruit is naturally high in acid, which it retains very well,
even in hot climates. Barbera grapes are also high in anthocyanins,
but only low to moderate in tannin content.
wines are deep, purplish black in their youth, but tend to
early browning and lightening as they age. Tannin from oak
aging can help somewhat to stabilize color.
Although normally indistinct
in aroma, when cultivated in temperate areas and cropped for
quality, Barbera can exhibit an attractive ripe aroma of red
fruit, currants or blackberries that can be enhanced by vanilla,
smoky or toasty notes added by barrel aging. On the other
hand, neutral aroma, high color and acidity are all good characteristics
for blending with other grapes and this is how Barbera is
most frequently used. Non-specific vinosity, combined with tartness and lower tannin also helps wines made with high barbera content to enhance enjoyment with a wide variety of foods.
Barbera Smell and/or Flavor
depends upon individual tasting ability and experience
and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions,
as well as viticultural and enological techniques.
This list therefore is
merely suggestive and neither comprehensive nor exclusive.
Fruit: currant, blackberry
(light): toast, vanilla, cream
(heavy): smoke, oak, tar
||Spice: anise, licorice
California Barbera is grown in the Central
Valley and finds its way into generic or
proprietary blends. Barbera raises the quality and brings balance to inexpensive red wines. The Sierra Foothills, Paso
Robles, Santa Clara and Sonoma, where very warm
days are moderated by cool nights, produce some
of the state's best varietal bottlings of
1. Jancis Robinson (ed), Oxford
Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, (Oxford University Press: London) 2006
2. L. Peter Christensen, Nick K. Dokoozlian, M. Andrew Walker, James A Wolpert, et all. Wine Grape Varieties in California (University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources Publications: Oakland) 2003
3. Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality, (Vendage Press: Dover, DE) 2010
4. Erika Montovan, Piedmont Wines/Barbera, I vini del Piemonte (winery consortium website) 2015
5. Steven Spurrier & Michel Dovaz, Academie du Vin, Complete Wine Course (G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York) 1983
6. Charles Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (University of California Press: Berkeley) 1998
7. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996