Barbera d’Alba Wine Region Guide

Barbera d'Alba: Embrace the Elegance of Piedmont's Unsung Hero

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Last updated: July 9, 2024

Introduction

Critics, winemakers, sommeliers, and growers can argue about many things: the role—and usefulness—of new oak in Burgundy, the relative merits of orange wine, and planting international grapes in traditional regions. Yet, Nebbiolo attracts a complete, unambiguous consensus. Valhalla of red winemaking, the Italian equivalent of Pinot Noir, reaches its apogee in northwestern Italy.

However, vineyards in this vast and diverse region also plant other worthwhile grapes, including (but not limited to) Barbera. Viticulturists have cultivated the variety in the hills of Piedmont for over 800 years. Most believe it originated in the town of Monferrato, from where it soon spread to the Alba and Asti regions.

In the 20th century, however, many of the area’s leading producers did not take Barbera seriously; they regarded it as a poor relation to Nebbiolo, lacking both refinement and complexity. But this is unfair: Piedmont’s ‘second’ red grape variety should not be sniffed at. If it is handled with care – and planted on the right soils – Barbera will yield exceptional red wine.  Moreover, when benchmarked against a young Barolo, for example, it is far more approachable and easier to drink.

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James lawrence

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