The Barbera of Ian D’Agata
“The ever-popular Barbera grape is grown in many regions of Italy, but it is most at home in Piedmont”
Wine expert and critic Ian D’Agata, who served as scientific consultant during Vinitaly International 2016 e and Scientific Director at Vinitaly International Academy, chose to talk about Barbera d’Asti in the December edition of Decanter in the section dedicated to the best ten terroirs of Italy. And among the 70 Barbera d’Asti wines that he tasted, D’Agata chose just 18 “Great Examples,” among which we are proud to say Lequlibrio features.
Why did the American wine critic choose to talk about Barbera d’Asti? Because, as he writes, “The only disappointing thing about Barbera d’Asti is that many wine lovers and experts are not aware of its high quality.”
Barbera is one of Italy’s most famous grape varieties, and it is planted not just in Piedmont, but in other regions of Italy as well, including Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, and Campania. It’s no surprise that Barbera is the sixth most cultivated variety in the Italian territory.
This being said, its best expression is undoubtedly in Piedmontese soil; and among its denominations, wines like Barbera d’Alba, Barbara d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, and Barbera dei Colli Tortonesi are the most important. For a little perspective on its popularity, consider that 33% of the 45,000 hectares cultivated with vineyards in Piedmont are dedicated to Barbera.
In addition, this is a rare case in which the multiple denominations in fact reflect the diversity of its wines. For example, while Barbera d’Alba is usually round and has a full body, Monferrato’s is harder and more direct, and Barbera d’Asti is usually presented as bright and irresistible.
As Ian D’Agata writes: “Barbera d’Asti – a DOCG that boasts 3,915ha under vine and 2,456 producers, 30 of which are cooperatives – offers both very successful, oaked versions as well as precise, fruity reds aged in stainless steel only. Clearly, Barbera d’Asti Superiore is a bigger wine than Barbera d’Asti, made from selected grapes, and must be aged for at least six months in wood. The sandy-marly-loamy hills of the Asti wine zone (named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014) are also the home of a small enclave called Nizza, one of three Barbera d’Asti sub-zones – the others are Tinella and Colli Astigiani. Of the three sub-zones, it is Nizza where the most ageworthy and arguably the best Barbera d’Asti is made. Previously called Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza, mercifully the name has now been shortened to just Nizza. The best wines are balanced and powerful, ageing well from eight to 10 years after the vintage.”
A PROMISING FUTURE
Ian D’Agata continues in Decanter, “The only disappointing thing about Barbera d’Asti is that many wine lovers and experts are not aware of its high quality. The good news is that things appear to be looking up. The Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato, headed by the dynamic Filippo Mobrici, has been growing steadily, with 33 estates joining in 2015, the total number of members now exceeds 200. It all adds up to many more great tasting and drinking opportunities for wine lovers everywhere.
“The following tasting of Barbera d’Asti and Nizza wines was conducted at the Enoteca Regionale di Nizza in January 2016, where samples were kindly gathered on my behalf. I tasted more than 70 wines and was not surprised to find wine quality very high across the board. Wines tasted were of various vintages, including the fresh, high-acid 2014s, the richer, well- balanced 2013s, and the fleshy, opulent 2012s and 2011s, both of which were fairly warm years.”
In number 8, volume 41 of Decanter, you will find all 18 labels selected by Ian D’Agata, and his insightful evaluations for each. Among these is our Barbera d’Asti 2013, Lequilibrio, the flagship wine of our Barbera d’Asti production, on which we tirelessly work to exalt its excellence.
Here is D’Agata’s review: “Fleshy, velvety style that aims to please – and succeeds; Montalbera, Lequilibrio, Barbera d’Asti 2013 has a big chocolatey, plummy style that will appeal to all those who like their wines showy and smooth. 90 points.”