A lot of patience, a few meditative yoga moves, including Omms, and a winemaker can reward the drinker with the perfect Barbera! Just as the name easily rolls off the tongue, so does this delicious drink.
Barbera is a medium bodied wine with its characteristic ruby red color, pronounced tannins, and acidity. Typical flavors of red tart cherry, plum, and spice notes, with mild neutral oak influence and vibrant red and occasionally blue fruit flavors are what make Barbera so yummy.
The Barbera grape originated from Italy and is primarily found in the Piedmont and Asti regions. As a varietal wine in Italy, it is a DOC wine (controlled designation of origin) or made into blends. It has an exciting amount of acidity that complements almost any tomato based Italian-style dinner.
To get this beautiful wine tasting so sinfully good, a winemaker has to have extreme patience, practiced with a little meditation and yoga! It is one of the toughest grapes to grow because of the searing acidity that overpowers some vintages. During harvest, as the winemaker repeats his Omms and waits for the acidity to drop and sugars to rise (brix), they can sometimes miss that critical window and pick either too late or too early. This can result is an overly acidic, or on the opposite end, overly sweet wine. If the winemaker gets it just right, a perfect wine for sipping can be created with winemaking magic.
Barbera grows best in warm Mediterranean climates that are characteristically known to have hot summers and cool, wet winters. During the summer months, rainfall needs to be almost non-existent and during the winter, snow practically unheard of. AVAs such as Napa, Livermore Valley, Lodi, parts of Sonoma and the Shenandoah Valley have great grape growing conditions for the Barbera grape.
In the US, Barbera has seen resurgence. In fact, there are currently over 8,000 acres under vine planted to Barbera! Once grown primarily for mass quantity in the central valley to support jug wine production, the grape is now being seen as a varietal wine. Picking up fans along the way, people seem to love this great food wine. Barbera pairs well with anything tomato based and since Americans have an affinity for pizza and lots of it, beer drinker are hanging up their mugs in exchange for stemware and learning to love Barbera! Started last year, Barbera now has its own annual festival. Held in the month of June in the Shenandoah Valley, the Barbera Festival celebrates all things Barbera. With over 80 wineries pouring from all over California at the beautiful Cooper Vineyard Winery, you can’t go wrong with this day trip. Make it an overnighter and stay at nearby Sutter Creek and slip into a charming room at the Foxes Inn B & B and eat at the fabulous restaurant, Susan’s Place for dinner. For more information go to www.barberafestival.com.
Last year at the Barbera festival, two notable wineries stood out. Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill produces a 2008 vintage that packs a tasty punch. Picked from the Macado Creek Area of Santa Clara Valley, this Barbera is bold, fruit forward and opens with berry pie, tangerine and cedar fragrances (retails for $25). Las Positas Vineyards from Livermore Valley carries a 2008 vintage that picked up a gold medal at the CA state fair in 2011. The fresh strawberry flavors linger on the palate and the firm tannins and acidity make it A-OK (retails for $40)! If you are in California’s Livermore Valley, why not make your Italian tour complete by stopping in to Tamas Vineyards and Rodrigue Molyneaux Estate Winery, another two wineries that specialize in Barbera and Italian Varietals.