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"That Useful Wine Site"
The Barbera Grape

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A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou
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About Barbera

(Synonyms: Barber a Raspo, Barbera a Peduncolo, Barbera Amaro, Barbera Crna, Barbera Forte, Barbera Mercantile, Barbera Nera, Barbera Nostrana, Barbera Riccia, Barbera Rissa, Barbera Rosa, Barbera Vera, Barberone, Barbexinis, Besgano, Cosses Barbusen, Gaietto, Lombardesca, Perricone, Pignatello, Ughetta)

Background

Barbera grapes Map showing the Piedmont region of Italy

Barbera is a red-wine grape originating in the Piedmont (Italian, Piemonte) region of Italy, which remains its principal source, though it is now widely grown around the world. It is not a world-class wine, but is a sturdy, workmanlike red that can nevertheless on occasion approach greatness; it is often said, only partly in jest, that Barbera is what the Piemontese drink while they wait for their Nebbiolo to mature.

Barbera is a classic high-acid wine, to the extent that that quality needs moderating if the wine is to be well-made. But it is also naturally a very low-tannin wine. In modern times, there has been a substantial move toward aging Barbera in oak, to help with those issues and others. Also, vineyard practices, especially holding yields down, have helped the grape move up the quality ladder.

In the Piedmont, the two principal areas for beter-quality Barberas are Alba and Asti, and fanciers will argue over which is superior (meaning they are probably on a par). Buyers of Italian Barbera will usually sek a Barbera d'Asti or a Barbera d'Alba. (Wikipedia asserts that "The wines of Barbera d'Asti tend to be bright in color and elegant while Barbera d'Alba tend to have a deep color with more intense, powerful fruit.")

While Barbera is grown in widely scattered areas throughout the world's wine regions, it is taken seriously as to quality and quantity chiefly in California. There, while it was long a "jug wine", it has for some time been treated by many winemakers as a potentially high-quality wine. Plantings in the Pacific Northwest—Oregon and Washington—are to date generally less successful. Barbera, with its acids, ages very well.

"Bare" (unoaked or only lightly oaked) Barbera tends to a definite nose and taste of a cherry-like quality; oaked Barbera picks up the usual mild vanilla tones of oak, as well as some darker-fruit qualities (it moves, that is, from cherry toward plum). Because Barbera is so acidic, there is a tendency on the part of vineyardists to let it hang long, so as to develop more sugars to balance the acid, but care must be taken not to overdo it; Barbera made from grapes left too long on the vine tend to an undesireable slightly sweet or raisiny quality. Barberas can be made anywhere from medium-bodied up to quite big and heavy.

Factoid: Recent DNA evidence suggest that Barbera may be related to the French-Spanish vine Mourvèdre (Spanish, Monastrell).


Some Descriptions of Barbera Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "When young, the wines offer a very intense aroma of fresh red and blackberries. In the lightest versions notes of cherries, raspberries and blueberries and with notes of blackberry and black cherries in wines made of more ripe grapes. Many producers employ the use of toasted (seared over a fire) oak barrels, which provides for increased complexity, aging potential, and hints of vanilla notes. The lightest versions are generally known for flavors and aromas of fresh fruit and dried fruits, and are not recommended for cellaring. Wines with better balance between acid and fruit, often with the addition of oak and having a high alcohol content are more capable of cellaring; these wines often result from reduced-yield viticultural methods. . . As with many grapes that are widely planted, there is a wide range of quality and variety of Barbera wines from medium bodied, fruity wines to more powerful, intense examples that need cellaring. Some characteristics of the variety are more consistent—namely its deep ruby color, pink rim, noticeable levels of tannins and pronounced acidity. . . The use of oak for fermentation or maturation can have a pronounced influence of the flavor and profile of Barbera. Barrel-influenced Barberas tend to be rounder, richer with more plum and spice notes. Wines made with older or more-neutral oak tend to have more vibrant aromas and cherry notes. While some producers delay harvest in order to increase sugar levels as a balance to Barbera's acidity, over-ripeness can lead to raisiny flavors."

  • Wine Searcher

    "As with Nebbiolo, there is considerable debate over how Barbera is best treated; traditionalist favor longer maceration and less oak, while modernists champion rounder, more approachable styles softened by barrel maturation. Being naturally high in acidity, Barbera can be grown in warmer climates without producing overblown, flat wines. . . This acidity complements the cherry flavors found in typical Barbera wines, and has contributed to the (largely justified) stereotype of Italian red wines as being ripe, bright and tangy rather than voluptuous and earthy. When young, most Barbera wines have a bright-red cherry character, distinguished from Nebbiolo (which often overshadows Barbera) by softer tannins and a certain roundness. When matured in barrel and allowed to age in bottle for a few years, this turns to a denser, sour-cherry note. A warm Merlot-like plumminess is also commonly detectable, although the variety is more closely related to Mourvedre than Merlot. When overheated, a Barbera vine will produce comparatively flat, dull wines with notes of baked prunes and raisins, while its trademark cherry flavors turn towards kirsch. Barbera reaches its zenith in Piedmont (see Barbera d'Asti and Barbera d'Alba), where the vine performs particularly on well-drained, limestone-rich slopes with a warm southerly aspect."

  • Jancis Robinson

    "Barbera's natural excess of acidity and shortage of tannin are accentuated at high yields. But if Barbera is grown on sites specifically suited to it and pruned carefully, more concentrated wines are the result. They still have rather a shortage of tannin however, but this can be counterbalanced by oaking and the additional framework of oak tannins. Which still leaves that high acidity. Many modern winemakers quietly deacidify Barbera (by adding harmless calcium carbonate for example) to give it extra appeal in an age when wine consumers are - wrongly in my view - taught to be shy of acidity. Fermentations tend to be shorter than those of Nebbiolo but longer than for Dolcetto. Barbera is not intrinsically the most flavourful grape in the viticultural universe - vague blackberry quality plus tartness is about as close as one cam come to the essential flavour of Barbera. The army of oaked Barberas which has invaded the Piemontese wine scene (filling the price gap between basic Barbera and Dolcetto and the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco) have tended to rely quite heavily on the oak itself for aroma. Time has shown that as these Barberas age, the oak increasingly dominates, as what little fruit the Barbera itself contributed fades. Few oaked Barberas are better at 10 years than they are at five."

  • Lettie Teague, The Wall Street Journal

    "Barbera has plenty of qualities that would seem to make it a likely household name: fairly soft tannins, an ability to age well, and bright, lively acidity. . . Why are there so many self-proclaimed "Pinot-philes" but relatively few "Barbera-ites"? One of the problems may be Barbera's bewildering variety of types. Barbera comes in so many guises—from big, broad-shouldered examples to light-bodied and charming wines—that would-be Barbera drinkers don't necessarily know what they'll find. There's also the matter of how the wine is made, which can vary and further confuse drinkers. Some Barberas are aged in new French barriques (small barrels), which impart perceptible tannins and a certain spicy bouquet, while others are aged in several years old large barrels. Some go directly into stainless steel tanks, producing wines that are fresh and juicy but not very complex."

  • Berry Brothers & Rudd

    "The wines are usually ruby red in colour with notably low levels of tannins. They have a pronounced acidity that can be accentuated by overproduction. Barbera wines range from light, tart mouthwashers through to powerfull, intensely flavoured wines that require extended cellaring."

  • Wine Folly

    "Somehow Barbera wine tastes both rich and light-bodied. Why is that? Well, one reason is that it has dark staining pigments that dye the wine to near-black. However, the taste of Barbera has notes of strawberry and sour cherry: flavors synonymous with light-bodied wines. Light tannin and high acidity make it taste ‘Juicy’. Most of the Barbera you’ll find is from Italy which leans towards more herbaceous flavors."

  • Ed McCarthy, Wine Review on Line

    "Barbera is unlike any other red variety that I know in that, although its skins are deeply colored, giving us dark-colored wines, it also has very high acidity, but practically no tannin! Piedmont Barberas are crisp and refreshing, resembling white wine, without the mouth-drying tannins of most reds. Once you savor its flavors, however - mainly tart cherries and berries, along with spiciness - you know you're drinking red wine. Barberas are not big reds; they are generally medium-bodied. Their high acidity comes in handy in hot vintages, such as Europe's 2003 and 2000, when other red wines suffered from high alcohol and over-ripeness, but Barbera's high acidity enabled it to deal with the alcohol. Because Barberas are not huge, yet do have racy acidity, they pair well with many dishes. . . Even though the Barbera d'Alba and Barbera d'Asti zones are contiguous, there is a distinct difference in style between Alba and Asti Barberas. Barbera d'Alba, growing in the same relatively warm south-facing hillsides that produce Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as around those two districts, tends to be fuller-bodied and rounder, with slightly less acidity than Barbera d'Asti, and generally has darker fruit aromatics. The typical Barbera d'Asti is lighter-bodied and livelier with more tart fruit flavors and more acidity than most Barbera d'Albas. But Barbera d'Asti made from old vines and aged in barriques (a development which has gotten more commonplace during the last two decades) can be as full-bodied as any Barbera d'Alba."

  • Jim Clarke, Star Chefs

    "Most producers took two steps to bring the grape into the spotlight. The first was greater ripening, in most cases attained by planting the grape in choicer sites. The second key to success was to age the wine in French oak. Barbera makes dark wines that are low in tannins – an unusual combination, since both color and tannins come from the skin of the grape, and the opposite of the orange-tinged, paler Nebbiolo with its immense, weighty tannins. New French oak lends wine tannins of its own, giving this newer style of Barbera the balanced structure it needs to support the added richness. The new combination of acidity and tannins also makes these Barberas much more age-worthy than their predecessors. The overall effect is like using a really good equalizer on your stereo; the rough edges are smoothed out and the bass becomes fuller, round, and rich. Many of the wines made in this newer style remind me of premium Zinfandel: dark fruits and creamy chocolate flavors, with gentle tannins. However, they aren’t so excessively alcoholic, and retain that characteristic acidity that means they can still find a variety of roles at the dinner table."

  • Food & Wine

    "Wines made from Barbera are often medium-bodied, with firm acidity and flavors suggesting red cherries and spice. (Barrel-aged versions tend to be more full-bodied, as well as more expensive.)"


Some Barberas to Try

(About this list.)

Moderately priced Barbera is definitely a buyer's market: our biggest problem was to cut back the list of candidates to a manageable size. There do tend to be more Asti bottlings available in our price range, but some fine-looking Albas showed up as well.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore "Le Orme", $10 - $18.
         ($16.34 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Among the most consistently pleasing, perfect-for-grillin’ Italian reds is Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore le Orme .  It's a medium bodied red made from the barbera grape near the northeastern Italian town of Asti. And it has the bright acidity and cherry and dark fruit flavors that make it go especially well with spring and summer grilled meats and vegetables. When it goes on sale for $10 or less, buy this one by the case.

    A bright ruby colour that typifies Barbera, this 2011 "Le Orme" Barbera offers upfront aromas of plums and dark cherries, before segueing into a palate that has been made more complex (but not too serious) by the application of 8 months in large oak barrels. The plum and cherry notes of the nose form a medium bodied palate, with hints of clove and a charcoal minerality lending depth. There’s a really pleasing juiciness to this 2011 “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti from Michele Chiarlo that again captures the core the Barbera grape variety’s character and makes this a very versatile wine for food pairing. 88 points.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (January 2012), 90 points

    ♣ This wine is the first and only Italian wine to have ever received the "Best Value" designation from all of : Decanter, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, the Wine Spectator, and Gambero Rosso.

    Sweet blackberry, plum and pomegranate fruit is fresh and vibrant as this red unfolds across the palate. Hints of flowers and spices intermingle, but this is more about the juicy fruit.

    It’s a wine reminiscent of the simple barberas of yore, fermented and aged in big, old oak barrels and offering direct, uncomplicated pleasure. Year in and year out this wine is a good value.

    Nose bursts with freshness – ripe tomato, basil, garlic and aged cheese. Palate continues the trend, like drinking tomato ragu. Pair it with such. Absolutely delicious and a wonderfully good QPR. 90-92 points

    This one varies in price so some of you may find it for $9 and some for $13 but at any price below $15 or even $20, I think this wine is a steal. It’s my standby for Barbera. . . This is a phenomenal wine at a phenomenal value. I can confidently say it’s one of the best bargains in Italian wine. . . Color: This is a great wine to look at! It was light and transparent, with a beautiful raspberry color. It’s elegant looking which mirrors the taste profile. Smell: Typical Barbera but so much more fragrant than many of the more expensive versions. The wine smells like ripe cherries with a touch of sour cherry. Against the oh-so-pleasant fruit smells, there is this very dark earthy, dirt smell. This is a wine of the land — it smells like minerals and wet potting soil, which I love, especially when it’s contrasted against such juicy fruit smells. Taste: I don’t know how Michele Chiarlo is making this wine for so little money — this wine has so much flavor. It tasted more like dark cherries and a touch like raisins, but then had a rich black licorice, cinnamon, and cola flavor. The wine’s texture is perfect for food — very dry, with strong acid, and a touch of tannin. . . Drink or sink?: Drink. All day long. I don’t want to ruin future posts, but I have to say this is one of the best wines for this price point, period.

    Hailing from northwestern Italy, this could be one of the all-time-great wine values. . . Appearance: Magenta with ruby highlights. Nose: Dark fruit, raspberries and hints of clove. Taste: Nice acidity, earth tones, and a pleasant finish.

    This ruby colored wine opens with aromas of bright cherries and ripe, dark berries. The palate offers straightforward tastes of ripe cherries, anise, and noticeable minerality. An easy sipping Barbera that drinks nicely at its price point! My Wine Rating: B


  • Elio Perrone Barbera d'Asti "Tasmorcan", $13 - $20.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Here’s a pleasantly fresh and fruit-forward Barbera d’Asti with notes of wild berry and blackberry backed by a delicate touch of vanilla spice and bitter chocolate. Aromas of smoked bacon fill in the rear and give the wine a long-lasting and penetrating finish. 88 points.

    Perrone's entry-level Barbera, the 2007 Barbera d'Asti Tasmorcan, literally bursts from the glass with an explosion of primary ripe red fruits. It reveals outstanding palate presence, with underlying mineral notes that framethe wine's fruit beautifully. A reference-point value-priced Barbera from Asti, Tasmorcan offers superb value for the money. It might not be the last word in complexity but it provides immense drinking pleasure. 89 points.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 90+ points

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (date unknown), 90+ points

    Bright ruby-red. Cherry and flowers on the nose. Wonderfully fresh and palate-cleansing if a bit youthfully imploded, boasting terrific energy to the flavors of bitter cherry and floral pastilles. Conveys an impression of intensity without any weight, thanks to acidity that's bracing without being tart. A very penetrating wine that finishes with a whiplash of fruit. I'd like to come back to this in a couple of years.

    The 2010 Barbera d’Asti Tasmorcan is fabulous this year. I find wonderful delineation in the aromas and flavors, all supported by a vein of minerality that gives the wine its balance. The 2010 isn’t a flashy wine. Instead, it impresses with its superb balance and class. The Tasmorcan is best enjoyed at the dinner table, where its lively acidity and vinous personality will show at their best.

    Unusual smoky bacon nose - northern Rhône-ish. Characterful with perfumed fruit and oak; balanced acid. Modern.

    Bright purple, moderate nose of blackberry, black raspberry, dried black cherry and earth.Medium body, complexity and tannin with high acidity.Balanced and pure. 89 points.

    Barbera from the Piedmont region in Italy often surprises people. Many expect a more austere and savory wine and are surprised to find Barbera quite round and supple. This offering has ripe fruit, floral notes, and a smooth finish in a very international style. Check it out as an alternative to Malbec or Merlot. It runs approximately $14. Raise a glass!


  • Vietti Barbera d'Asti "Tre Vigne", $14 - $22.
         ($16.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Vietti's '04 Tre Vigne Asti, made from a blend of three Asti vineyards, has aromas of black cherry and black pepper, lively acidity, and a leaner style than his Barbera d'Alba Tre Vigne. Just a touch of oak tannins. Fine value. Drinking Vietti's Alba and Asti Barbera Tre Vignes [listed farther below] together will give you a good idea as to which style you prefer. I prefer the Asti. 91 points

    Vietti's 2003 Barbera d'Asti "Tre Vigne" is the more powerful sibling of the Alba wine. Glorious mixed flavors of red fruits, mineral, brown sugar and graphite lead into dusty tannins; it's clearly a wine that will age will for another five years or more.

    As always, plush; marked earth and black fruit aromas and flavors.

    It is ruby purple in color, with ripe red cherry aromas and hints of mineral and vanilla. A soft dry, medium bodied red wine with refreshing acidity, a perfect pairing for food. Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne is well balanced with good integration of oak, good complexity and a finish of more red cherries. Aged for 12 months in French and Slovenian oak casks, then in stainless steel for two months before bottling. This wine is unfiltered to retain its complexity.

    A medium-bodied, well-balanced wine with notes of dark, red fruit and a bit of spice.

    Lighter garnet hue with ample aromas of gentle cedar, slight licorice, sweet vanilla and cherry fruit. Palate--Lovely integrated flavors of cherry, white bread, green herbs and a beam of caramel or maple that is subtle but delightful. This is a really nice wine for the price ($15) and well constructed with a ready to drink presence.

    Good dark color, with a hint of animal and a note of licorice over black currant and blackberry on the nose that follows through on the palate with lovely ripe fruit and just a kiss of oak. Full-bodied, with excellent structure and a somewhat opulent, almost velvety texture; already drinking beautifully [2005 vintage in 2008], with great promise for further development over the next three to five years.

    Italy is a huge source of reasonably-priced, food-friendly wines. This juicy, delicious 2010 Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne, with its tangy taste of smoke, licorice and sour cherries is one of them. So it’s no surprise that it was one of the most-poured-wines-by-the-glass listed in Wine & Spirits Magazine’s 2013 restaurant poll.

    Pleasing, long-lasting flavors of plums and spices. 2½ *


  • Coppo Barbera d'Asti "Camp du Rouss", $15 - $25.
    (Coppo-Barbera-D-asti-Camp-Du-Rouss-750ml)
         ($20.44 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of red cherries, raspberries, leather, and cigar box. In the mouth, the wine was dry, warm (you can distinctly feel the “heath” of its ABV on your palate!) and smooth; fresh, tannic (with firm but not harsh tannins) and tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of wild cherries and black pepper. The finish was quite long and the evolutionary state ready (i.e., fine to drink right away, but likely better if you let it rest 2/3 more years in your cellar). Overall, the Camp du Rouss was a good, muscular Barbera, with a nice balance between its secondary, fruity aromas and the tertiary, spicy ones as well as an appealing price.

    The 2005 Barbera d'Asti Camp du Rouss is made from higher-quality vineyards than the Avvocata and aged in French oak. This super-ripe Barbera comes across as juicy and forward, with leather, spices and sweet toasted oak that complement the generous fruit. It provides a fascinating contrast to the Avvocata, in that it is a different, but not necessarily better, wine. One can only wonder what a wine made from the best fruit and aged in neutral oak might taste like here.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (August 2008), 88 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (December 2007), 88 points

    The color is a little darker ruby, even unto ebon .  and the bouquet is amazingly fragrant with flowers, black olives, black tea and licorice, black currants and plums, all framed by woody spice that makes no pretense of nuance. Drenched with flavors of spiced and dried black and red fruit, Camp du Rouss 07 is vigorously earthy, notably dry to the point of some briery and underbrush-like austerity on the finish, and it certainly bears a more rigorous tone and sense of dimension than its cousin [Coppo's "L'Avvocata"]. While it’s no old-fashioned manifestation of the grape, with all the flaws and favors that old-fashionedness implied, this is a Barbera d’Asti of some class and distinction.

    Coppo got its start in the 1800s making Moscato but has transformed into a Barbera specialist. This modern-style wine, with its rich black cherry flavor, gains spiciness from aging in new French oak barrels.

    Aromas of blackberry and flowers follow through to medium- to full-bodied palate, with light tannins and a delicious berry, lemon and vanilla aftertaste. Balanced and flavorful.

    Bold aromas of ripe black cherry, cassis, light fig notes, with a touch of smoky toast. Lush palate of ripe blackberry, cola, and cooking spice, with hints of licorice, dark chocolate, and vanilla. Balanced and lingering finish.

    This dark ruby colored Barbera opens with a fragrant black cherry bouquet with a hint of oak and anise. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, lively, crisp and juicy. The flavor profile is a black cherry and plum blend with integrated mild oak. The finish is dry and its acidity and flavors keep this wine fresh and alive in your mouth well after the wine is gone. This is a very old school Italian-styled wine.

    Direct and sprightly with earthy, floral flavors. 2 *


  • La Spinetta Barbera d'Asti "Ca di Pian", $16 - $29.
         ($22.74 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    I'd like to first suggest that before you consume this wine that it be properly decanted for a few hours before pouring it. I found it to be very much a wine that improves with being aerated at this particular stage in it's life. Once properly oxygenated the wine improves at least ten-fold. On the nose I get aromas of dark chocolate covered cherry, black plum, meat, spicy oak, earth/soil, and some rustic and earthy blackberry notes. It's a very complex effort on the nose and one that I wouldn't mind smelling over and over as it unfolds. On the palate I get some tart blackberry flavors that combine with secondary notes of dark chocolate, tar, and leather. It has a very tart mixed-berry complexity and is nice and dry on the finish. This is most definitely above-average Barbera, and one that I believe is a perfect value and a serious candidate for my everyday table wine of choice. 89+ points

    There are different expressions of the [Barbera] grape. It can be young and fresh, full of bright cherry flavor .  It can also be a bit more serious, round with blackcurrant and plum notes, especially if it has been aged in oak barriques. La Spinetta’s Cà di Pian Barbera d’Asti 2009 falls toward this latter style. It’s aged in new and used French oak for 12 months and has a darker fruit profile full of dried plum and black cherries. It’s still soft and round, though, and extraordinarily easy to drink.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (November/December 2013), 91 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (March 31 2013), 90 points

    Showier aromas of black cherry, plum and licorice, plus a chocolatey ripeness. Rich, plush, seamless and sweet, delivering glossy, chewy dark fruit flavors. Finishes subtle and impressively long, with very fine-grained tannins.

    The 2009 La Spinetta 'Ca di Pian' is a voluptuous, sexy Barbera with intense aromas and flavors of blackberries, plums, spices, cedar box, leather and eucalyptus. This is full-bodied
and richly textured with a firm structure and a long finish. The 'Ca di Pian' spent 12 months in French oak, 6 months in steel and an additional 2 months in bottle before release, but it will be at its best [as of 2013] after another year or two in bottle.

    Very pure, offering black cherry and wild berry notes augmented by balsamic and earth accents. Intense, with fine grip and a lingering aftertaste of menthol and tobacco.

    [T]his 2007 Barbera d'Asti has a blast of fresh raspberry and cherry with a pleasant, toasty vanilla quality from barrel ageing.

    Pronounced fresh plums, berry and rose aromas - a real fruit feast. Cool blue fruit characters come through with a touch of sweet plum to finish.


  • Marcarini Barbera d'Alba "Ciabot Camerano", $13 - $20.
         ($16.34 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    90 points, begins bright in the glass, yet dense burgundy to ruby colors with a broad transparent rim and subtle aromas of cinnamon, clove, and cherry, seems to say this wine is perfect right now. Textually light on a medium body (I'm still trying to understand that) with good acidity, mild tannin, and a moderately long spicy finish, sandwich a fruit filling of boysenberry, blackberry, cherry, with just a hint of earth.

    La Morra is a high-elevation site. Its wines, never mind the grape variety, are famous for a certain softness and perfuminess. Those qualities are abundant in this exceptionally rich, intense, yet soft and supple barbera from Marcarini, a producer famous for its Barolos. This is superb barbera, one that reflects the richness of the 2007 vintage. If you've ever wondered why lovers of Italian wines are so enthusiastic about barbera (count me in), this wine will explain it in a single sip. The price is a deal for this level of quality.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (August 2009), 88 points.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (March 2010), 91 points.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (April 2012), 88 points.

    ♣ Gambero Rosso (April 2011), 2 bicchieri (of 3)

    I will cut to the chase, this wine is yummy. Lovely clear garnet color. Nose of tobacco, herbs, bread, blueberry, and dark cherry. Very smooth and rich on the palate. This wine has an underlying structure and density that holds up the lovely flavors of sweet oak, fruit, and spice. Light acidity with fine tannins that lead to a creamy medium finish. I am not a Barbera expert by any means, but usually they seem leaner, this is a comfort wine and drinks really easy. Thumbs up and a great buy.

    This is a delicious barbera, as usual. Fresh and berry scented, then lightly floral and spicy. I didn't pick up any new oak but there may be some barrique aging here. The flavors were simple and pure with tangy fruit and a nice tannic texture, and a great savory note on the finish.

    Intensely structured, with dark fruit flavors, accents of black pepper, a touch of cocoa and brown spice on finish.

    Ciabot Camerano In this privileged position, this rustic, humble and vigorous vine offers forth its best fruits. The grapes, picked fully ripe, are fermented according to traditional methods. After aging eight months in small French and Danubian oak barrels, the wine is passed into the bottle where it continues its evolution. Fresh blackberry fruit with some fresh flowers and light earth/black truffle notes. Bright black cherry/blackberry fruit on the tongue with light/smooth tannins and tangy acidity on the finish, a bit of spice and floral notes. Finish 30+ Very Good

    Favorite Barbera under $20: My vote is for Marcarini's Barbera d'Alba Ciabot Camerano. [A long discussion thread worth reading through.]

    Simple, but simply delicious, this features lovely cherry flavors and nice little spicy accents. With pure fruit and just the slightest whiff of wood, this is very appealing and is certain to prove very versatile with food. 89 points.


  • Marchesi di Barolo Barbera d'Alba "Ruvei", $13 - $22.

    Some quotations and facts:

    The very attractive nose showed spiced berries, herbs and leather. On the palate, it was intense yet silky, with tart berries and spice, softening acidity, and excellent balance. The finish was lingering with dark fruits, not long but very smooth. (90 points)

    Deep black almandine ruby with black reflections and ruby rim. The bouquet is bright, and rich, with clean fresh chewy plum berry fruit supported by some violets and deft greenish spice that have slight hints of balsam, and a pleasing underpinning of acidity that doesn't stand out, but whose absence would be felt. Harmonious. On the palate it's rich, with bright red berry fruit supported by clean berry fruit acidity and by moderately intense soft tannins, what one expects from a Barbera, and it all flows into a clean fairly tart finish with (again) lively fruit underpinning. Graceful and eminently approachable; it's a wine one could drink by the glass but that will also work very well with all sorts of foods, from pasta dishes through grilled meats and light stews, and will go very, very fast.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (April 2012), 88 points.

    ♣ Gambero Rosso (November 2012), 2 bicchieri (of 3)

    A pleasant, everyday wine with aromas of raspberry, coffee liquer and smoke. Quite soft in the mouth, it lacked real intensity; the fruit and smoky character were there but in a muted form. 84 points.

    On the nose I found cherries and leather. The nose was sweet with spicy undertones. In the mouth I got flavors of dark cherry and spice. The wine was lighter in the mouth than other Barbera’s [sic]that I’ve had. It didn’t have as much going on as similarly priced bottles either. It was a nice quaffing wine, but look for other bottles in the same price range that offer a better value.

    Aroma - red and dark fruit, a little hot. Taste - plums, dark cocoa, soft tannins

    A solid red to wash down pizza or pasta, this bright-tasting vino with blueberry and vanilla flavors also doubles as the perfect starter kit for the big league wines from Piedmont.

    Pairs compotelike dark fruit with electric acidity; recipe for perfect dark meat match.


  • Vietti Barbera d'Alba "Tre Vigne", $17 -$27.
         ($23.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Good dark color, with earth, sticks, black currant and blackberry on the nose; a little less ripe in the mouth than the ’05 Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne, with a little more earth, mineral and underbrush. Sleek, yet full bodied, well structured, long on the finish, and while not “rustic,” perhaps a little less “modern” than the Vietti Barbera d’Astis.

    With lots of super-ripe dark blackberries and plum, some earthiness, and a bit of smoky leather, this wine has a lot of amazing depth, especially at this price point . . Though it’s a bit tart on its own, it’s a great wine to pair with food…

    Vietti's standard Barbera d'Alba, made from a blend of three Alba vineyards. Concentrated red and black fruit flavors, round, with just a touch of oak tannins. A good Barbera, but for me, Vietti's Tre Vigne Asti is even better. 89 points

    This bottle had been open for a while before it was poured for us. Fantastic strawberry scents show in the glass accompanied by cherries, a touch of candy, and stones resting in dark earth. The wine is gentle and floral on contact with the palate. The tannins quickly exhibit a wonderful round texture. The strawberries from the nose deliver on the palate, and they are as good as the scents suggested. A touch of candy transitions into cherry liqueur toward the finish and some very nice mineral sensations are firm on the mid palate. Wonderful fruit sits high in the experience, and it lingers long on the finish. 91+

    If I had to choose one from among Vietti's less-expensive wines, the nod would go to the Tre Vigne Barbera d'Alba. In 2004, ripening conditions returned to normal after the devastation (from hail) of 2002 and the desiccation (from heat) of 2003. This is pure joy, with varied fruit flavors that defy description. A great food wine. (Unique).

    In the glass this [wine] is an obvious ruby red colour with hints of violet also showing. A degree of discolouration is just evident towards the rim of this [wine] that indicates the time spent in oak by this wine. On swirling, the legs of this [wine] are found to be fairly pronounced, with a declared alcoholic content of 14.5% abv. This is the upper limit for what you would expect to see from the alcoholic content of Barbera d’Alba. On the nose, this [wine] is pronounced. Ripe red cherry and slightly more tart dark cherry notes mingle amicably in the bouquet of this [wine], with a touch of oak providing the backdrop. Once in the mouth, this [wine] is a more meaty and weighted style of Barbera than Barbera d’Asti (as is typical of the Barbera d’Alba classification) and red fruit again reigns. Mixed cherries, plum and a fewer darker forest floor fruits predominate. The oak influence upon this [wine] is subtle but slightly sweet and the hallmark acidity of the Barbera grape runs through the palate of this [wine] and pushes the fruit briskly towards the finish. The tannin structure of this [wine] is chunky, but not too overt. On swallowing this [wine] slightly tart fruit and a note of kirsch remains.

    In the nose you’ll find black fruit, green herbs, earth and chocolate. In the mouth there is Barbera’s acidic trademark, with density of flavor and a fair amount of tannin very long.

    Ruby purple in color, the wine had soft tannins (the oak) and a nice finish. This medium red wine would be an excellent choice for pasta or light meats.


For a Splurge

An argument can be sustained that Vietti is the premier Barbera vintner in the Piedmont. In any event, we suggest their Vietti Barbera d'Asti "La Crena" bottling, which retails at from $30 - $46.



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