Few wine drinkers are familiar with Barbera, yet it is Italy’s third most cultivated grape and one that dates back to the thirteenth century. At best it produces the aromas of berries, plums, or cherries with hints of vanilla, smoky, or toasty flavours. Ideal to accompany tomato with pasta dishes. Being highly acidic it’s useful for blending. It’s part of many everyday Italian wines but rarely features on the label.
The Barbera vine grows vigorously on many soil types and gives high yields, without control and pruning, quality suffers.
Though still important, the acreage is almost half it’s peak. It’s decline not helped by a methanol scandal in the 1980s. Piedmont is the most important region although vines grow as far south as Sicily. Winemakers have sought ways to appeal to a wider audience by producing light and fizzy versions.
Apart from some vineyards in Greece, few other European countries grow it.
Nineteenth century Italian migrants spread the vine around the New World. Unlike other varieties there are only niche plantings. In South America it’s in blends although Argentina produces single varietals. California also use it in blends for high volume wines.
Winemakers use in small quantities in Australia and South Africa.