“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. Lets face it, 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 those 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’d have to be sniffing something white to take them seriously, wouldn't 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, because 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 there will always be someone who can 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 but what Barbera really lacks is natural tannin. Tannin is the flavour, natural additive or whatever you are 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, so many people are wary of the term. In reality however, you can’t make a fine wine without it, but the good news is that like all the pleasurable things in life, 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 are still leading 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 else. 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.

Anyway, I've got two Italian Barberas and an upstart from Australia to try alongside a classic bruschetta so it’s time to say pip pip for another week folks.

Watford Observer:

Barbera d'Alba, Burlotto

Richer than most Barberas with blackcurrant fruits on the nose and ripe sweet cherries on the palate. As well as being rich, it’s lively, fresh and quite delicious.

Lea & Sandeman £17.95

Watford Observer:

Tesco Finest Barbera d’Alba

I should really hate this given that I dislike most supermarket own labels but Tesco have 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