Barbera is a red grape mostly associated with Piemonte. Barbera as a grape has a couple of things going for it. Firstly it’s relatively easy to grow in most places, and secondly you can mess about with it in the cellar to produce a few different styles.
When I say easy to grow in most places, it means it’s an ideal red grape for the average wine grower to produce year on year without much fuss. These are the guys that have had a vineyard plot passed down through the years and they grow the grapes and sell them to a co-op who turn the grapes into wine. This is a very popular way of doing things in Italy, and most co-ops in Piemonte produce lots of Barbera based wines.
It’s also a pretty good traveller, going with the Italians emigrating out to Argentina, and also now produced in the US (although to be fair the US are having a go at nearly every grape in the world these days!).
Barbera’s normal style is very easy drinking, with good acidity (refreshing) and low tannin (doesn’t attack your gums). It tends to smell like cherry (another big export of Piemonte), but it depends on where it’s grown as to whether it’s a light smell or a dark heavy smell.
Winemakers have the option of sticking it in an oak barrel before release or not. Sticking wine in new oak barrels gives it a few extra flavours, which can sometimes mess up a wine, but Barbera loves it. The option’s always there for a style change.
Other posts in NWTW Week 4: