What is Barbaresco?
Strolling through the International wine section at your favorite wine shop you come across yet another mystery. A Barbaresco wine. What is it? Should I try it? What do I pair with it? Where is it from?
Barbaresco is a red wine made from Nebbiolo grapes that are produced in the Barbaresco sub-region of Piedmont, Italy. Nestled in the northwest corner of Piedmont, Barbaresco has a unique micro-climate that is ideal for Nebbiolo grapes. Similar to Champagne or Barolo, it is a region and a wine with the same name.
Barbaresco is one of Italy’s most popular wine regions and definitely an Italian favorite, yet it remains very underrated on an international scale. Barolo, it’s neighbor, also produces Nebbiolo and seems to have more defined popularity, although both seem to have a small cult following outside of Italy.
The lack of popularity nowadays may be due to the fact that most of the Nebbiolo grapes that were grown in Barbaresco used to be sold to Barolo winemakers until the late 1800s. Although it was a while ago, it seems to have a lasting impact.
World War I made a large negative impact on all Italian winemakers and grape growers, especially for those in Barbaresco. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that Barbaresco started to make a comeback with the founding of the Barbaresco Cooperative Cellar that greatly reduced the numbers of farmers leaving the area. With a decade, farmer’s and winemakers made enough progress to start marketing and selling their wines internationally.
There have been many (failed) attempts at classifying these wines with a Cru system like they do in France, however, that hasn’t seemed to catch on. Although, some of those concepts stuck with the creation of subzones in 2007 which helps to protect boundaries and the exploitation of these wineries.
More recently, we have seen an increase in the international consumption of Barbaresco. It has been predicted that there could be a large boom in consumption through common popularity trends like we have seen with Moscato di’ Asti, orange wine, and “super-Tuscans”.
Barbaresco requires two years of bottle-aging before its wine can be released. Barbaresco Riserva requires four years of bottle aging before release.
Climate and Soil
Barbaresco has extremely rich and nutrient-dense calcareous marl soil. This type of soil is pretty much a very lime-rich clay-heavy soil which actually results in lower tannin levels. Lime-rich soils are more basic than other types of soils but actually, produce more acidic grapes as a result.
Barbaresco’s climate is warm and temperate.
Color: Pale Garnet. For being a fairly tannic wine, Barbaresco’s and Nebbiolo’s as a whole tend to be lighter than you would think.
Aromas: Cherry preserves, rose petals, perfume
Flavors: Cherry preserves, clay, leather, anise
Acidity: Very high
Alcohol: Moderate to high
Finish: Very long
Barbaresco is the perfect math for Ribeye Steaks, rich risottos, washed-rind cheeses, and even a pepperoni pizza
How to Find Good Barbaresco/Good Alternatives
It can be hard to find a Barbaresco is some wine shops, especially in small towns. It can be even harder to find one that is old enough to drink without aging it. However, Barbaresco’s tend to be a special occasion wine and on the spendier side. The most obvious alternative to Barbaresco is a Barolo. Other Nebbiolos from Italy will be a close second.