The Oxford Companion to Wine refers to Barbera as a “productive and versatile red grape variety, Italy’s third most planted dark-berried vine after Sangiovese and Montepulciano,…..much of it used to produce tart, cheap wine” and it is frequently blended with other varieties. It traditionally has low tannins and high acidity. My previous experience with this varietal was unsatisfactory as I didn’t like the bitter taste. At Galil Mountain Winery, they planted 7.5 acres (3 hectares) about 8 years ago, producing the first vintage about 4 years ago, and Boaz, one of the team of vintners, told me that they have been developing a wine of a different taste which is not bitter. When we were at the Galil Mountain Winery Wine & Cheese Tasting, the CEO of the winery, Uri, referred to it as a “Zionist Barbera.” Through delayed picking, the higher sugar levels produce a softer wine. Also, methods of growing the vines to produce lower yields have resulted in a richer and better balanced wine. The Galil Mountain Winery Barbera is aged nine months in old oak barrels. The use of oak for fermentation or maturation is said to have a pronounced influence on the flavor and profile of Barbera. Barrel aged Barbera tends to be rounder, richer with more plum and spice notes. Wines made with older or more neutral oak tend to have more vibrant aromas.
Benito’s Wine Reviews from 2009 discussed the 2006 vintage, saying, “lots of black cherry on the nose, with full plum flavors but a very mild and soft mouthfeel. Tannins are barely present, making this an incredibly smooth wine, probably great for Thanksgiving.”
We tasted the 2008 vintage Barbera at home with dinner and found it to our liking. It has a deep purple color and a medium body, obviously nowhere near the body of the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal. It did not manifest high tannin levels and probably won’t age well. It has a wonderful aroma, described by Nurit as “dried leaves of Fall just before the first snowfall.” It seemed to me to have the sweet smell of our apple orchard in November, well after the harvest and when the ground was littered with fragrant, fallen, fermenting fruit. It is full of berry flavors and has a funky long finish. Initially, it was harsh Nurit’s throat, but given a longer period of breathing after opening the bottle and before drinking, it significantly mellowed. It cost 60 shekels, or about $16 at the winery. We gave it a Wine Grade of A- or B+ as it was a reasonable value as an every-day table wine. We will drink it now and not put it in the wine cellar for aging.
L’Chaim and Happy Thanksgiving to all.