As we’ve been saying in the last couple of posts Barbera does alright on most soils and slopes, but that’s not to say it doesn’t change in terms of the taste and drinkability (I thought I’d just made up a word, but spell checker hasn’t even blinked!) depending on where it’s grown.
The two more famous styles, that I know of anyway, are Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba. These are separate zones where the vineyards need to sit in the outskirts of the major local towns of Asti and Alba. Chances are you’ll have heard of these.
Alba is home to Ferrero (big area for hazelnuts), makers of Nutella and Kinder Surprise and all that lot, and also famous for truffles. Funnily enough though Asti, which is 30km down the road, is where the big truffle tradition always was, just Alba nailed the marketing early doors. Asti is home to the Martini brand, and also home of the sweet sparkling wine Asti Spumante (get a good one and it’s great, get a crap one and it’s awful).
Barbera d’Alba tends to be heavier, with dark cherry tastes, as opposed to Barbera d’Asti which is slightly smoother and lighter in body, with more red cherry taste. Both usually have really soft tannins (to do with the grape rather than where it is grown) and a bit peppery on the tongue as you drink it.
As I said in a previous post, Barbera does pretty well in oak barrels. New oak barrels are used to calm the wine down a bit before bottling, but also adds its own flavours, usually liquorice in this case. (Old oak has usually run out of flavour and is just used to settle the wine down.) Barbera guys usually use new oak, but not always. It may say on the bottle, it may not. What it will say is “Superiore” which usually indicates time in barrels. Chances are it’ll be a smoother drink compared to non-Superiore.
So on my choices from the shops for this week, there are 2 from Asti and 1 from Alba. If you have the time and can cope with drinking 2 bottles in a week (!?!?) then do try at least one from each.
Other posts in NWTW Week 4: