Unusual Wine of The Month – Barbera

Unusual Wine of the Month!

These are wines that are unusual – either to South Africa, or even just to me, and, sometimes, to you. I’d like to introduce you to the cultivar and tell you where you can get a good example, right here in the Western Cape.


Unusual Wine of the Month – Barbera (Altydgedacht 2015)

What is it and where does it come from?

The Barbera (pronounced bar-bear-a, as opposed to the English woman’s name) is a dark-skinned Italian grape varietal that is widely grown in the north-west region of Piemonte.

Because the Barbera grape was so widely-grown, it became quite common and was thus regarded as the every-day, drinking wine for the Italians. It’s meant to be drunk young and pairs well with hearty food dishes.

The premium Barbera wines come from a town near Piemonte with the same name, and the best wines here will have the name Barbera d’Asti DOCG.

This particular grape varietal grows well in hotter climates and so it has done well in California, Argentina and Australia. It’s not so common here in South Africa, though – well, at least it is not something I come across often. (Fairview currently makes a Barbera, but I have yet to try that.)

The 100% Barbera I tried is from Altydgedacht in the Durbanville Wine Valley. The Durbanville climate is appropriate for Barbera as although it is a relatively warm area, there are cooling winds from the Atlantic Ocean and late summer mists. Often, this means a lengthier ripening period and thus provides the opportunity for quality wine.

This varietal is unique as it is a late ripening grape, with thick skins, but with low to medium tannins and high acidity. It thus looks and feels like it should be full-bodied, but it is actually quite youthful and fruity.

What does it look like?

As you can see in the glass above, it’s a dark, ruby colour that begins to look a bit more garnet-like with ageing.

What does it smell like?

The grape varietal is known to have aromas of red cherries, plums and sometimes black pepper. I could certainly pick up the plum aromas and also some blackberry and dark cherry.

What does it taste like?

It’s surprisingly fruity. The plum flavour was the most prominent for me – almost more prune-like, than plummy. I also picked up blackcurrant, black cherries as well as red cherries. But what was quite notable for me was the sort of meatiness to it, perhaps stemming from the spiciness created from the aging. It’s very juicy and soft in tannins with a gentle ‘oakiness’ to it.

What temperature should it be served at?

I’d serve this at room temperature (between 15 and 18 degrees celsius) and would much prefer it in winter than in summer.

How long can it age for?

This wine can technically age for about 5 years or so, and in some cases, up to 8 years. But it’s meant to be enjoyed young, so I’d drink it within 2 to 4 years. I think if you leave it too long, you’ll lose the fruitness and get more of a meatiness instead. Although I have never tried another Barbera, the one I had was 3 years old and I think it is the perfect time to drink it now.

What food can it pair well with?

Due to the fact that this wine is so high in acidity and low in tannins, it is so easy to pair it with food. As with most Italian grape varietals, it pairs well with the typical Italian foods: pizzas, pastas and tomato dishes. But because of the juiciness and sort of savoury taste, it would also pair well with rich, red meats and mushroom dishes. I’d pick a creamy, mushroom risotto or a mushroom pizza or an oxtail stew.

Where can I get it?

You can order it from Altydgedact directly HERE, or even online from Cybercellar for R145 a bottle.

In a nutshell:

A juicy, fruity red wine with a slightly savoury undertone and high acidity – the perfect winter wine to enjoy with hearty meals.

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

Disclaimer: I am a huge wine lover as I’m sure you know and am most certainly not a connoisseur, so this is just my opinion of this particular wine.