Let’s start our Barbera wine pairing lesson with a look at the grape
The Barbera grape is indigenous to Southwestern Piedmont, from the Monferrato. The incredibly vigorous barbera grape is the third most planted vine in the whole of Italy. While the bulk of its production is in Piedmont, it is also found in Emilia-Romagna, Puglia, and Sardinia.
It has great adaptability and noteworthy heat tolerance, so you’ll also find it in New World regions as a varietal wine as well as in blends.
High levels of acidity give barbera wine bright, freshness on the palate with ripe, vibrant fruits, and very little tannins. The high acidity makes it ageable, however, since young barbera wine drinks so easily, people don’t think to hold it.
The two dominant barbera wines of Southwestern Piedmont are from Alba and Asti, giving some distinct differences.
Barbera d’Asti versus Barbera d’Alba
Barbera d’Asti is from the Monferrato, the grape’s place of origin. In Asti, Barbera gets the best plots in terms of exposure and soil composition, different to the neighboring Langhe where nebbiolo reigns supreme.
In general, Barbera d’Asti wines are more rustic, showing lively femininity, intensity, complexity, and dark fruits. These wines benefit from cellaring, particularly when aged in wood, which builds up structure and tannins.
Barbera d’Alba wines have more finesse and elegance. They tend to floral notes like violet and darker fruits.
Barbera wine pairing considerations:
Given the high acidity, fatty foods work beautifully with Barbera wine. Think red meats and even salmon is a gorgeous pairing. Also because of the acidity, barbera wine pairs well with pasta with a simple pasta in red sauce or a marinara.
Barbera wine is extremely food-friendly given its juicy, bright acidity. So, get creative with the pairings. Pizza is an easy go-to with the zesty flavors. Also try barbecue with any type of meat, fatty fish, and even root veg. The flavor is gorgeous with the acidity.
Higher tannin foods like root vegetables also work well as it complements the palate-pleasing acidity in the wine.
Barbera wine pairing ideas:
- Traditional dishes include:
- Pasta with a bolognese sauce.
- Risotto – especially truffles or a risotto al barbera.
- Salami and cheeses.
- Get creative:
- Barbecue is a masterpiece with barbera. The palate-cleansing acidity is a perfect match for the heat and fat as well as the complex flavors of a good barbecue sauce or dry rub. Younger drinking, steel-aged barbera pairing is great with lighter grilled foods – think chicken, rabbit (very traditional in Piedmont), and sausage. For richer red meats, try a barbera with a little age and some wood aging.
- Fatty fish is also a great barbera pairing, like salmon, or cod. The Consorzio Barbera d’Asti suggests making the fish with roast peppers in lieu of tomatoes to add to the texture and complexity.