We weren’t sure how to title this one. The reference to Barbera is a murky one for some people. In Piedmont, Barbera is considered one of the ‘little’ wines, something of an everyday beverage with the grapes usually relegated to the lesser terroirs.
Barbera also has an image problem of a sort. What is it? There are so many variations. You’ve got something decidedly utilitarian and unadorned from a number of the larger producers in Piedmont all the way to someone like Braida who is shooting for the stars with carefully tended vineyards and an upscale oak regimen.
There are many personalities from firm and fruit forward to stern and acidic, and all of them perform better if the is food involved. Most recently in the 2013 and 2014 vintages, very difficult for the earlier harvest, ‘lesser’ grapes in particular, they mostly ranged from uninspired to awful. The 2015s and 2016s were at the other end of the spectrum, generally very good and often outstanding. Given the variations in style and dramatic swings in vintages, we couldn’t begin to guess what most folks think about Barbera.
The 2017 vintage isn’t going to answer the question of what Barbera should be. But it is a unique and joyful look at something the grape can be but rarely is. The short story of the vintage is crops reduced by weather quirks in the spring, low yields, warm dry summer, phenolic ripeness and an early harvest. The result is possibly the juiciest, tenderest, most engaging examples of Barbera we can recall tasting…ever!
Hey it’s early in the game, but there’s no reason to expect that the freakishly friendly 2017 Barberas we have tasted thus far aren’t a proper vanguard for what is coming (the 2017 Nebbiolos have been remarkably precocious as well).
Our poster child for what we have seen thus far is the Revello Barbera d’Alba 2017 . Billowing nose of spicy dark red fruits, supple palate with tender edges, gregarious and juicy every step of the way, the profile hardly says Barbera given the history of the grape here, though the flavors are varietally correct.
Also, at $15, it’s a lot of wine for the fare and, even though it is an uncommonly friendly version of the genre, it is just as food friendly as it should be as, under all of that fruit, there’s enough cut to get the job done.