Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.
Readers will be aware that I am fond of the wines of the Piedmont in northern Italy. I wrote about Dolcetto, ‘the little sweet one’ recently, and today our attention turns to wines from the Barbera grape, which along with Sangiovese, is the most widely planted variety in all of Italy, (52,600 acres!)
Wines made from Barbera tend to be overshadowed by those from the Nebbiolo grape, which yields the more weighty and famous Barolo and Barbaresco, known as the King and Queen of Piedmontese wines. And yet there is a place for Barbera, in fact it is know as the ‘wine of the people’ because of its relative affordability and easy drinking qualities. Barbera is meant to be drunk young unlike Barolo and Barbaresco, which need to be carefully aged in order to lose their bitterness.
Traditionally Italians in the northeast of the country in the area, which historically belonged to the Savoyards, would drink Barbera to accompany the local cuisine while saving wines made from Nebbiolo for special occasions.
Oz Clark sums Barbera up as ‘an all around great food wine.’ Low in tannins and bright in acidity the wine pairs well with meats, cheese, mushrooms and is a great pizza wine!
Dark in colour, but light in texture, Barbera tastes of cherry, strawberry, violets and lavender. The best growing areas are near the famous towns of Alba and Asti with the latter possibly producing the finest silky examples.
Barbera has been around for a long time, the first mention of plantings were some 1,000 years before mention of Cabernet Sauvignon! The grape is increasingly found in other parts of Italy such as neighbouring Lombardy and
Puglia in the deep south, also grown in California, Australia and Argentina.