I got so excited about dolcetto this year, see my report on The Return of Dolcetto, that I almost forgot about Barbera!
Those battery acid barberas are something many of us of a certain age vividly remember. It was generally due to the high yields back in the day, when wine was cheap and farmers cared more about yields than quality.
Today we live in a different world and not only do producers simply lack the demand for such high production wines, but consumers can easily find out what’s a good example of a wine and what’s a bad example, and often those two bottles are essentially the same price! On the other hand, really good Barbera has joined the ranks of the expensive wines in many case, though the accompanying quality is usually there. $50 bottles of Barbera, who’d’ve thought?
Fortunately you don’t have to break the bank to great a fabulous bottle of Barbera and those gentle tannins make Barbera a wonderful wine with a little chil. I’ve always loved a cool bottle of fresh Barbera paired with great, farm fresh vegetables simply grilled and served on grilled European Rye bread (Silver Bell’s from Queens is the best!) then drizzled with the best Olive oil you can find. It’s a simple dish but the slightly vegetal undertones often present in barba marry perfectly with the veggies and the acids in the wine join the fats in the oil to create a symphony in your mouth. All the grilling also helps to temper and evidence of barrel ageing should there be any.
I will come out and say that I do not like new oak with barbera, though a little bit can help add some tannin to the wine which can improve mouthfeel for those used to more muscular wines. For me the oak just gets in the way, though ageing in larger, neutral oak can have a wonderfully effect on Barbera, adding a subtle softness to what is inherently a taut and edgy wine. Of course oak ageing makes Barbares a better wine if you’re pairing it with a fatty steak or such fare, but that is not the role Barbera plays in my life.
For me it’s all about the acid, which is why so many people enjoy barbera so much with high acid dishes such as pasta in red sauce. As you’ll see from my notes I prefer Barbera when it is elegant and fresh, which does not mean simple and light. A gentle hand can produce Barbera that is downright Burgundian! Yes barbera, the battery acid of yore is now elegant. Give a few bottles a try. Pasta, grilled veggies, even some meaty fish can make Barbera shine, and offer a hint as to why demand for these wines is continuing to push up pricing. One last note. Barbera also ages. It won’t make old bones like Barolo for example but give a good Barbera three to five years in the bottle and you’ll find a wine that has lost some of it’s early fruit but replaced it with the leathery, spicy, earthy character so common in Piedmontese wines. I prefer my Barbera roughly during this period as it combine the brilliant fruit found in the young wines with all the nuance and detail you might expect to pay more for.
Having said that. many of the wines in this tasting represent the creme de la creme of Barbera, and they don’t come cheaply. The wine world is a odd place where wines get priced to match demand and demand usually, but not always, follows critical acclaim more than anything else. Barbera, and dolcetto to a certain extend, have benefitted from the incredible increase in attention to and appreciation of Barolo and Barbaresco over the past decade.
Smoky, ripe and complex on the nose, with deep earthy, medicinal accents to the candied black fruit and a lovely hint of chocolate liquor and chocolate covered cherry. Electric acids on attack are followed by rich,powerfully dark yet fresh fruit, unfolding gorgeous layers of plum, earth, and gently spiced fruit. This is an incredible wine, long and incredibly pure considering the power, with a little wild yeast nose adding lots of complexity on the nose. Finishing with incredible length and minerality to the tight, small wild dark cherry on the finale, this is one of the best Barberas ever tasted. Stunning.
Tight floral notes that are a little peppery greet the nose along with some soil spice notes violets and a bit of beefiness. Black plum and juniper pop on entry where this is bright, with great cut, and super freshness. Truly a clear, light on its feet exaltation of Barbera that shows a subtle chocolate ripeness on the back palate back note, along with fine fresh plum and blackberry fruit that pumps across the palate with life and draws through a long, well defined finish. With some beautiful fine grained tannins, and well integrated acid supporting the fruit, this is long and exceptionally balanced. A classic example of this wine and one that should age well for a decade or longer. 94pts
16 months plus in barrique,50% new
Lots of wood on the nose, sweet and toasty with spicy notes concealing but not totally covering the core of black cherry skin, black plum fruit. This is silky, elegant and savory in the mouth, with spicy wood up from the superb tense fruit with great minerality and clarity on the backend. The wood tannins are well integrated, and this is very refined on the palate with a finish that is a bit short, but shows finesse, I want to like this less than I do but this is superb. 93pts
In San Lorenzo
Black fruit, spice, soil, and dried green herbal accent greet the nose followed by hints of shoe polish, leather, and black cherry pits. This is gorgeously perfumed and detailed. Round, ripe with deep fruit on the palate, this shows off fine acid that is bright but integrated with soft tannins highlighting the purity and a subtle richness that this has. I really love the way the great acids that are buffered superbly by the big juicy plummy fruit with some wild berry accents and hints of plum pit and black currant on the moderately long finish. Just a silky joy to drink 93pts
24m in botte
Meaty, with lots of savory culinary aromas like roasting steak and pretty big brewing coffee filling the glass while mineral hints of something saline and magnesium like creep in around the edges of the dark fruit. Smooth and powerful, and seamless in the mouth, there’s great depth on the palate with fine mineral, herbal and floral detail along with a bit of coffee all woven together with dense, taut ripe fruits. The huge almost medicinal herbal notes that drive the long, juicy, slightly mineral water salty and quite fruity finish leaving one with a finale filled with macerated flowers. Not your typical Barbera, this shows the mineral complexity, power and detail Barbera d’Asti is capable of. 93pts
Chocolate, ivy, black cherry, and mineral come together on the nose with just a subtle underlay of wood,. Big acids on entry let you know this is Barbera, and this remains brilliant in the mouth with huge drive on the palate and great clarity to the red cherry and black plummy fruit. With fabulous balance and integration of flavors, you get just a hint of cognac spice from the oak accenting the fruit on the palate, this has great drive and focus in the mouth and shows great length on the gorgeous finish. A Barbera that seems likely to age exceptionally well for more than a decade, this is only held back by a little alcoholic warmth on the finish. 92pts
One year to 18 months in ten year old botte
A little spicy note on the nose, which is richly sweet and spicy, with aromas of small cherry fruit framed with smoky, earthy and quite spicy notes along with floral nuances. Upon entry this explodes aromatically in the mouth with gorgeous scents of small black cherry fruit and more light, perfumy, floral notes in the mouth. The fruit shows a bit simple, finely etched cherry flavors that gets great cut from the acids, and then shows mineral notes on the long finish. This impresses with elegance rather than power, though it is impressively perfumed and deep on the palate. 92pts
Intensely aromatic on the nose and deep with hints of herbs and burnt brownie, apples and asian spices. On the palate this displays a superb texture, integrated and tightly knit showing a soft and broad density in the mouth though remaining transparent and freshly fruited with palate staining intensity to the cherry skin and wild berry flavors. Showing pretty big tannic structure for Barbera, this remains lacy but with firm edged tannins, showing a little Burgundian texture on the backend where bright acids really come out on leading to a long finish with fine persistence to the fruit. A hint of heat mars the otherwise pure and precise finish. 92pts
Tight and sweet on the nose with an oaky overlay of vanilla and spice laying atop the core of black fruit. Supple and old viney in the mouth, this has super fine tannins supporting big and dense liquory black cherry fruit that shows a bit of sour plum in the mouth. Big fruit, density and power in the mouth are trademarks of this wine along with with plenty of mineral character and a long chocolate streaked finish. This is wilky and long, with great fruit but the oak is certainly present and might detract from the fruit a bit. 92pts
Deep floral notes and a bit of burnished wood emerge quickly on the nose followed by a bit of beefy, black fruit, blackberry aromas and something a little leathery. Elegant, refined, and bright this is really very precise for Barbera with lovely fresh and wild black fruits on the palate that exhibits such freshness without having huge acids. Long, pure and elegant, this finishes with more red fruit and sliced plum notes. I’ve had this wine with several years of age on it and it ages spectacularly well. 92pts
Fruit from the lowest part of Rionda and west facing part of Margheria, called le tourne. Only produced in top vintages
Creamy on the nose with a wood smoke top note over fine candied medicinal notes, the oak is fairly obvious. Big, ripe, polished, powerful, and deep on the palate with big fruit and creamy oak on the backend leading to long black cherry slightly candied finish. Integrated but powerful acids keep this lively in the mouth and while this has potential to improve, it’s rather regal for Barbera already. It’s not my favorite due to the obvious oak but you can’t deny the quality here. 92pts
18 months of botte, a piece. 80% comes from Piagallo, historically a Barbera vineyard, the rest the lower part of Merenda, Merenda contributes body, Piagallo freshness and salt, mineral,
Huge macerated herbs greet the nose along with notes of camphor, chalk, a hint of cocoa, and very complex, clear, and firm hints of blackberry with a little creamy edge. This shows real freshness in the mouth and while it is rich, powerful and notably dense , it remains bright and fresh. Rich with pure fruit, black plum and blackberry layered over a firm mineral note. This has a smooth texture supported by bright but not elevated acidity and wrapping up with a long and elegant finish replete with the twang of black cherry twang acids on the finish,. There’s great depth to the fruit here with emerging complexity. 92pts
2 or 3 months in botte
Tight, focused and pure on the nose with beautiful aromas of violet tinged black plum and black currant fruit. Bright, lean brilliant fruit greets the palate, edgy with such cut, freshness and purity to the plum skin and earthy raspberry fruit. Quite long on the palate, racy and focused with a hint of minerality on the finish, this is fabulous. An outstanding big-boned yet elegant Barbera. 91pts
Cannubi Moscatel, Cannubi
Second vintage. One year in large wood, newer wood,
Musky on the nose with tight chalky aromas and a hint of wood, dark fruit along with soil tones that are spicy and dry. A big wine on entry with lots of power, this is rich and polished with integrated acids, lovely plum and almost black raspberry fruit showing a hint of bramble and briar wood. Smooth polished and moderately long in the mouth, this reveals a deep vein of rosewood on the backend and lovely persistence to the fruit with superb balance and scale in the mouth. Perhaps a touch simple but gorgeously pure. 91pts
A little minty from wood on the nose but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of the candied red fruit gently framed with aromas of rose petals on the nose. Elegant and with perfect richness on the palate this has just the right density of fruit flesh wrapped around the acids. There’s great plum and tart red here with a juicy sweetness that remains fresh and right through the long finish that shows a little blueberry and long raspberry finishing notes. This is downright gulpable,so firm and pretty, with fine length and great freshness of fruit. Not the best Barbera of the trip but the one I want to drink the most of. 91pts
Planted in a Nebbiolo vineyard attached to ornato in Serralunga, 80% barrique, 6000 bottles
Remarkably brilliant color. A bit oaken the nose with some shoe polish notes but with air aromas of wild black cherries, plums, dates, chocolate, and fruitcake fill the glass. the smells a little sweetly after wood. Decidedly a big wine, round, transparent and still a little rustic in the mouth with fabulously fresh plum skin fruit. One finds mineral edges on the palate balanced by the sweetness from wood, and this remains very aromatic in the mouth, with wonderful herb inflected inner mouth perfumes melding with the light toasty spice notes providing compelling complexity. The cutting acids on the finish are masked on the palate by richness, and this is powerful but lightweight in a good way. Just a bit short today and with oak that is a bit too prominent for my palate, this is still quite good. 91pts
Dark, spicy and soil driven on the nose with a hint of sweet vanilla candy framing rich dark fruit. Delivering lots of fruit on the attack, this fills the mouth with big plum fruit and shows a hint of black currant jam. Texturally this is quite round, with some tannins contributing to a feel that is a bit chewy and chunky. The acids kick in on the back end and drive the powerful spicy plummy fruit through the very long finish. This is fairly elegant in the mouth though it does show heat on the finish. 91pts
Gorgeous on the nose, just classic Barbera with hints of tart blueberry, mulberry, a whisper of smoke and just gorgeous precise aromas of something sweet, with hints of dried berry fruit, and coffee toned shoe leather. Bright on entry, rich, even broad in the mouth. this is fruit driven, and just joyous in the mouth, showing zesty on the back end then following through with great length and just a whisper of heat on the finish. This lacks the complexity of the best but doesn’t need it, as it’s all about clarity and purity which it has in spades. 90pts
Tight with a little sweetness on the nose and the graphite I find typical of barbera aged in stainless steel. Delicate, juicy, and with fabulous purity in the mouth this is a bit simple with midpalate flavors of ivy and black cherry but with fabulous body Finishing with acid and a lovely gentle sweetness to the black cherry fruit, this is long and pure. 90pts
With aromas of cherry, game, balsam, fresh flowers, and sour plum on the nose this shows attractive aromatic complexity. Backed up with power and nuance in the mouth, this is powerful, smooth, and easy going up front, with darker fruit and minerality emerging later on the palate, which is long and finishes with focus and layers of dried red fruit, a touch of old wood, and savory, leathery dried meat notes. Complex and distinctive. 90pts
Minerally on the nose and subtly floral with a little spicy black juniper and a bit of sweet cherry compote. Sweet fruit greets the mouth then this turns taut and a little chewy in the mouth while delivering a rich mouth full of black fruit, spicy with good acids and lots of flesh surrounding the acids. There’s a little sweet toasty spice adding detail and length here, but this is pretty powerfully laden with fruit and a few year ageing should see the spice note integrate fully and the deep fruit should relax and extend the already attractive finish. 90pts
100% new barrique
Smoky but briary on the nose with obvious wood spice supporting rich, dark fruit, this wraps everything up in a gauze of cocoa and tobacco. Rich with fruit, and just a touch softer than one might like yet retaining plenty of acidity, this offers clear and slightly chewy plummy fruit with hints of red currant and raspberries on the palate, finishing very clearly with wood tannins emerging and drying out the palate a touch. Air bring out lots of coffee cream on the nose, but this is a fairly elegant expression of barbera, with a hint of caramel. Not my style but in the style pretty good. 90pts
Black fruit, a little lime-ade, soil tones and lots of leather come together on the nose in this spicy almost passion fruit, very perfumed, elegant rendition of Barbera. A Little soft on the palate due to the richness and depth of fruit here, though this doesn’t feel extracted. Just natural expression of ripeness, focused, with good snap, in a very friendly Barbera that is easy going but still interesting. The texture though is so supple and delicately full, and this has an impressively sweet, long, balsamic toned finish. Really enchanting. 90pts
Pretty on the nose with aromas of tight black fruit and wild flowers. Rich and fairly powerful on the palate, this shows off good acids supporting plenty of bright juicy fruit that gains a polished edge with air. Elegant for Barbera, there is great cut and energy on the palate here and good length with dark berry and tart plum fruit that is pure and vivid. Fruit driven in the best sense of the word. 90pts
Aged in concrete and in SS
Finely focused on the nose with floral laced high toned, black fruit. In the mouth one finds a clean and fresh feel that shows off the classic weight of Barbera. There’s just a hint of flesh, soft tannins, good obvious but not high acid all supporting lovely pure of fruit on the palate. Finishing firmly this unfolds in the mouth with mineral notes and a clean, palate cleansing wash of acid on the finale.Perfumed in the mouth, this does seem to be missing just a bit of fruit. 89pts
18m in botte
Very pretty wood supported aromas of blue fruit, mineral, ripe plums, leather, asphalt and slightly medicinally tinged black fruit greets the nose. This offers lots of fruit and power up front with a good acid spine supporting the powerful black plum and black cherry flavors. While fairly easy to understand up front, this drops off a bit on the finish, still showing nice life and freshness to the fruit, but leaving one with hints of minerality and incipient complexity that takes some faith. I expect this to improve with a few years of age. 89pts
Va, a little spice and red cherry pie on the nose which is a little flat with aromatic rosemary, herbal, and medicinal components. A bit soft on entry, though with lots of superbly fresh red fruit that shows hints of root beer and ivy in the mouth. With, fresh little furry tannins, and decent but not great acidity, this is a pleasure to drink with a medicinal finale and more herbal ivy notes on the moderately long finish. not entirely typical of Barbera though typical of this bottling. 89pts
Nicely floral on the nose with streaks of blue fruit, a whiff of smoke and some ash and tart black currant fruit rounding out the aromas. Round fresh and zesty in the mouth, this shows nice depth on the palate and is almost rustic in an attractive way showing savory complexity and attractive nuance. On the palate the acid really drives the wine with nary a tannin to be found, but they are there, soft grape skin tannins. The finish is all cherry and plum skin, tart and slightly astringent and quite fresh in the mouth with an aromatic hint of blackberry preserves on the finale. Kind of textbook Barbera. 88pts
Bottling the 2013 now, to be released in 6 weeks
Very floral on the nose, which shows a bit of freshly ground coffee and black spice along with a hint of fish sauce, though it remains tight and earthy. Clean fresh and bright in the mouth and displaying absolutely pure fruit, this is very pretty with juicy acids that are very Barbera. This still has enough fruit to buffer the acids but this comes off as somewhat mineral on the palate with a bit of black raspberry fruit emerging on the back end leading to a clean, fresh, fairly long black plummy fruited finish. Fun yet this really shows a nice hint of complexity of fruit on the palate. 88pts
1 year in wood
Hints of ruby red grapefruit, violet, and soil tones all add attractive complexity to the core of black fruit aromas on the nose. Unusually this shows some new wood on the nose. with a lovely texture, this displays fresh. tart red berry fruit on the palate with integrated but bright acids that are very palate cleansing. There’s a little grapefruit on the backend again, and lovely energy to the flavors that are not super complex but so fresh and fun. 88pts
Ash greets the nose with a hint of redux along with aromas of ink, very black fruit, and a little pepperoni Rich with some breadth on entry followed by bright cutting acids supporting very pure black plum skin and black berry that is bright and energetic. There’s a hint of mintiness here on the backend that leads to a long acid driven sour cherry finish. Nicely fruit driven. 88pts
From the Brea vineyard in Serralunga, aged in mid sized barrels and SS,
A bit tarry and balsamic on the nose with hints of pine cone and pignoli along with a little VA lifted gamy and sour plummy fruit. This is already showing some evolution on the nose. Quite beefy on entry with powerful fruit, good acids but well integrated in the small red fruit and candied plums on the palate. there’s also a bit of sweetness on the palate, with acid adding a nice counterpoint. This is smooth and chewy and while long in the mouth it does lack a bit of freshness. 88pts
Lots of red fruit shows up on this sweet nose which picks up a little forest floor and clay soil notes with air. A Touch soft for Barbera, with soft tannins lending this a velvety, easy to drink texture. Lots of plummy, red fruit is large scaled and fresh in the mouth with those tiny tannins making this fun to drink but the finish, slightly jammy but still with plummy red fruit flavors, is a bit on the short side. 88pts
Pretty floral, iris aromas with some pencil lead and earth on the nose. In the mouth this is bright, clear and decisive, with excellent energy and transparency of fruit. It’s light on the palate with a bit of sweet/tart going on in the mouth, and terrific purity to the raspberry fruit. Picnic styled but superb in the style with nice length on the palate. 88pts
Massucci vineyard in Monforte
Black berry jam is deep on the nose framed with hints of nutty cola and lots of very subtle prosciutto and herb accents. Almost jammy on entry, there’s lots of fruit but but tart fruits, jammy wild berry, black frutti del Bosco that pick up nuanced balsamic, forest floor notes on the palate. This shows attractive complexity, though it comes across as a touch dried out, perhaps from its sojourn in wood, where it also picked up some fine grained tannins. Quite serious with savory depth, and some finesse on the finish. 88pts
Very fruity on the nose and spicy with softly herbal and dried spice notes framing gentle and dusty red berry fruit. A bit chewy early on the palate and with plenty of acidity, this is moderately tannic and has a bit of an stringent nature to it. There’s a slightly jammy quality to the red fruit on the palate, and through the long and slightly warm finish. This is simple and a bit raw in the mouth, but certainly a great example of typically zesty Barbera. 87pts
Nicely focused on the nose with dark floral notes a little earthy, dark plummy fruit, and a little mineral top note. In the mouth this is very clean, fresh and bright, with a character that is a touch on the simple, easy going side. There’s nice earthy length here and fine purity to the fruit which is tense and shows a nice mineral edge, growing in the mouth on the finish, which shows good length, but overall this lacks a bit of detail. Easy to drink and delicious but a bit simple. 87pts
Macerated plums, sandalwood, and jammy boysenberry fruit greet the nose in a rather fruit driven and pronounced way. Round on entry with nice fleshy plum fruit that shows little boysenberry flashes along with a little jammy black currant note and black cherry preserves. This is very well knit, though very fruity in style with soft tannins and a soft feel through the backend before the acid kicks in on the plummy finish. Huge and simple but if you’re looking for a fruity barbera this could be magic. 87pts
Medicinal on the nose with early hints of bit shoe leather followed by fruit that is dark and earthy in style. Dark fruit on entry is surprisingly fresh in the mouth but has a lot of dried fruit and black fruit character. There’s acid here but this shows plenty of flesh black fruit, a little soft edge of tobacco wood spice, in a style that is a little chewy, powerful, and slightly dense yet focused. Fairly long on the finish, this wine impresses with its fruit and richness but lacks the character I look for in Barbera. 87pts
All botte with a part in Acacia, some in new botte since they recently acquired new botte
An initial whack of wood hits the nose, just too oaky and raw. Once you get past that there is a honeycomb like floralish aroma here, dominated by violets layered atop black currant, and jammy black fruit on the nose with hint of fresh leather and shoe polish. On the palate the fruit does shine through, framed by sweet toasty oak flavors, tart black plum and black berry pop on the palate and while this is arguably better than the standard version it’s less fun to drink. The finish is a bit short, rather rich with fruit but the sweetness of the wood pops quickly then fades leaving light fruit and acid to dissipate fairly quickly. 87pts
A vineyard selection
Tight on the nose with hints of pencil shavings and a bit of toasty oak over reticent fruit. This offers up great mouthfeel, a bit soft for Barbera but still has good acids, just a bit fleshy yet retaining nice transparency on the palate for a big wine that shows a hint of woody sweetness accenting the somewhat simple black plum and black raspberry fruit. The wood tannins emerge on the backend, and air brings out some lovely hints of violets on the nose and adds to the chewy character on the backend and sticky note on the finale. A bit too forced and extracted. 87pts
Prosciutto, crushed berry fruit, tree bark, ink, and hints of smoky, candle wax and cocoa greet the nose with great nuance. In the mouth this is pretty round and decidedly big on the back end with a powerful, round finish that shows good persistence to the dark berry fruit. In spite of its size this is pretty easy going on the palate, not soft, but supple for Barbera with fairly long, easy finish. 87pts
Quite fruity on the nose with VA offering lift to the aromas of black fruit, blackberry, black currant, and a little shoe black and almond over nuanced minerality. Very fresh in the mouth, with a texture that is clear and bright. the fruit here is very clear on the palate and very light for modern Barbera. The fine tannins and bright acids support ripe plum skin and black cherry skin flavors. While a bit short and showing a bit of volatility, this is quite engaging on the palate. 87pts
Attractively vinous on the nose with mineral and gently smoky aromas that still show a hint of malo. Bright acids temper a little fruit sweetness early on the palate, then this turns mineral through the midpalate, with flavors of red plums and blackberries that are simple but nicely balanced. Acid is present but there’s a softness to this wine with a very fruity backend that shows just a suggestion of grapes skin tannin. The finish shows a soft fruitiness making this super easy to drink. fruity but boy is this long. 87pts
Big black fruits on the nose with hints of shoe polish, lots of black cherry fruit, and a little spicy blue floral and graphite background notes. Smooth and rich in the mouth, a nice bit of flesh helps to cover the acid on the midpalate, then the acids drive the finish. A little chunky and raw with lots of mineral and blue fruit on the finish. This is a bit tough going today, too raw and aggressive in the mouth without enough flesh to cover the acids through the finish. 84pts
Dark, earthy and funky on the nose this shows Barbera as the fruit begins to fade leaving behind complex spice, earth, and dried red and black fruit aromas along with some obvious VA. Smooth, supple and polished in the mouth, while the fruity aromas have faded significantly here the plummy, slightly dried cherry flavors remain on the palate along with earthy edges and a dark mineral edge. The finish is quite abrupt here, with some drying wood tannins appear on the palate here. A bit rustic and rough around the edges, with a touch of wood tannin picked up in barrel turning this harder in the mouth. The VA really blooms in the glass and is excessive making this tough to drink. This is usually a classic but this bottle at least is flawed and undrinkable.
Origin: Snooth – Articles