Barbera was the theme for our most recent Thursday night tasting. Craig has become our expert on Italian varietals, so he presided over the tasting. We tasted six Barbera wines, two from Alba, one from Monferrato and three from our local vineyards in Lodi.
Craig gave us a short history of Barbera which has it’s roots in the Piedmont area of Italy and is the second most planted varietal. He also told us how Barbera was brought to America and where else in the world it is grown, Argentina and Australia. In the 1880’s Barbera was imported into California and first grown in the Cupertino area. He also told us how Barbera varies within each region in Italy and in California. In general, Barbera is used as a blending wine due to it’s high acidity even when very ripe. Amador County and the Paso Robles areas, though, produce a number of Barbera bottlings. Interestingly, Portland, Oregon and the Piedmont area in Italy, home to the Italian Barbera, is the same latitude. So, by comparison, the California climate is much warmer than Piedmont. Some feel the warm days and cool nights of the Piedmont area produce better flavor. We will see. Our challenge for the evening was to determine which bottles were from Italy and which from California.
2008 Marchesi Di Barolo Maraia Barbera Monferrato – The color of this wine was garnet-ruby with a pleasant nose of ripe fruit. The mouth feel of this wine is light, but the flavors are complex with dark fruit flavors, blackberry, raspberry and leather. Tannins were moderate in amount and the acid significant. In general, acid levels with Barbera are significant. This wine was the overall favorite of the group. It is flavorful with a light mouth feel, an excellent warm weather red.
2007 Ruvei Barbera d’Alba – This wine also produced by Marchesi Di Barolo was dark ruby. The nose was sweet with carmel and dark ripe fruit. There was a slight medicinal flavor along with ripe fruit. Tannins were moderate and the acid was significant. Overall, this wine tasted riper with a heavier mouth feel.
2005 Borra Old Vine Barbera, Fiera Del Bue Grasso – A Lodi wine, the color was dark garnet. This wine definitely looked older than the others. The nose was sweet with cotton candy scents. This wine tasted very ripe with ripe dark fruit, leather and smoke. The flavors were very sweet with a hot finish indicating a higher alcohol level (14.5%). The tannins were moderate and the acid significant. Overall, this was too ripe too ripe for out taste.
2008 Barbera d’Alba, Bussia – Produced by Giacosa Fratelli it had a lighter ruby color. The nose had a light perfume smell. The flavor was light, tart fruit and had a light mouth feel as well. Tannins were moderate with good acid. Overall, this wine tasted like a lighter version of the 2008 Marchesi De Barolo. This was the group’s second favorite wine.
2009 Macchia Lodi Barbera – The color was very dark ruby, in fact it was the darkest of the group. The nose smelled of very ripe fruit and wood (from the barrel). This wine tasted like over ripe dark fruit and vanilla. Tannins were moderate and the acid significant. The saving grace for this wine was that the wood flavors in this wine were very pleasant, but the fruit was over ripe.
2009 St. Amant, Tools Of The Trade Barbera – Also from Lodi, it was a medium ruby color. The nose smelled like sulphur initially, then of dark, sweet fruit. The flavors tasted of very ripe, dark fruit and was very sweet. The tannins were moderate and the acid significant. Overall, though, this wine was too ripe for our tastes. However, I believe there are many out there that would enjoy this wine.
For us, the difference between the Italian and Lodi Barbera was fairly clear. We were able to pick-out the Italian wines, based on a lighter color, less ripe flavor, lighter mouth feel but with plenty of flavor. Overall, everyone liked the Italian Barbera very much.
Thanks Craig for the great tasting!