“Philosophy is like wine. There are good years and bad years but, in general, the older the better.” Eric Weiner

Barbera is a workhorse grape for many local Italian producers, but in recent years it’s seen its fortunes change for the better, and more and more wine makers are planning a future of quality rather than quantity.

One of its problems, in the eyes of many in the trade, is its high levels of acidity, but I actually see that as a positive aspect in any Italian red. We eat Italian food with Italian wines, and they do like their tomatoes, not to mention peppers, garlic and all manner of wine-killing extras, but wines of high acidity pair well with extremes of flavour.

I think the real problem lies with its history of being a good grape for mass production of wines because it’s difficult to change perceptions. Let’s face it, if Lada announced a rival car to the Aston Martin Vantage you wouldn’t take them seriously would you? The more that winemakers experiment with the grape, however, the more confidence they will gain in its commercial ability and we will all benefit: the wine world needs innovation to stay relevant.

All the classic grapes have been done to death in every country of the world, and while someone will always come up with a new twist on Merlot or a different food pairing for Shiraz, our wine shelves are in danger of becoming a trifle boring. But I think Barbera can be the grape to watch in the next five to ten years.

The young vines produce lighter, fresher styles of wine with zingy fruit, but the older vines add a richness and depth to the fruit. However, what Barbera really lacks is natural tannin (the flavour or natural additive or whatever you’re comfortable calling it that gives a serious red wine its bite and its ageing abilities). Sometimes in a thin wine from a bad year that lacks fruit, it can come across on the palate like chewing a strong teabag. In reality, however, y^You can’t make a fine wine without tannin, but the good news is that you can fake it. Oak-ageing imparts tannins from the wood, as well as those lovely hints of vanilla, although that’s less noticeable in oak-aged Barbera than it is in Cabernets.

While the Italians still lead the world in the production and innovation of their own homeland varieties, the Australians in particular have been catching up lately, and as with all of their wines they tend to squeeze a tad more fruit out than anyone. One thing I have noticed however, is that there seems to be a trade off point with Barbera where the fruit can dumb down that refreshing acidity that makes Italian varietals stand out, so I guess it comes down to how traditional you want your wine to be. Pip pip!


  • Vietti Barbera d’Alba: Striking cherry aromas on the nose which continue onto the palate. This one has striking acidity which makes it a fabulously refreshing red and a great one for pairing with food. I adore this one and have done for years. Richardson’s of Whitehaven, £19.95.
  • Tesco’s Finest Barbera d’Alba: I should really hate this given that I dislike most supermarket own labels, but Tesco has pulled a cracker with this one. A rich aroma of ripe cherries with plums and raisins on the palate. Well done, chaps. Tesco, £9.00.