Barbera d’Asti & Monferrato Wines – Facts, Everything You Always Wanted to Know

Monferrato is a splendid territory, recognized as a World Heritage Site for its outstanding beauty and in the words of UNESCO. It is an exceptional living testimony to the cultural, economic and traditional history of winemaking to the rural vineyard landscape of the region. The discovery of the territory and its wines through the tastings and more!

By Wanida Tardivel 

Founded in 1946 to ensure the authenticity and expand the presence of Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato area wines for both the Italian and foreign markets through special distinctive labelling. Asti and Monferrato wines increased the number of participating wineries from 7 at its beginning to 323 currently. The primary objectives to improve wine industry conditions, with special regard to the agricultural component, the real backbone of the territory. The “Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato” to emphasize the Denomination and to represent the entire area. There is a verification program for the wines on sale, made in accordance with the ICQRF Institute, which offers customers the maximum guarantee of product quality. Analysis of Barbera d’Asti wines from both Italian and foreign wine shops showed no irregularities.

Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 40, 14049 Nizza Monferrato, AT. Welcomed by the President of the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato and followed by Masterclass “Barbera Revolution” guided by Kerin O’Keefe (www.winemag.com) and organized by Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato

During the 1900s, Barbera played the primary role in local viticulture, but particularly in the 1980s a new growth stage started, pushed by some producers who wanted to improve its general quality. They incorporated new concepts such as clonal selection, thinning, grape selection, and monitoring ripeness. In the winery, this growing professionalism worked on malolactic fermentation and the proper use of barrels and barriques for aging wine. Barbera is a medium vigor vine with high fertility and a constant yield. The fruit has high fixed acidity levels that give the wine longevity and a pleasant mouthfeel; high levels of anthocyanins for a deep and bright color, and it is low in tannins. The vines can be trained with different systems, but the most commonly used system is “Guyot Controspalliera”, leaving one fruiting branch with 10 buds. Barbera has good resistance to Peronospora, Oidio and Phylloxera diseases.

THE BARBERA D’ASTI DOCG

The DOC was created in 1970 but has recently had some interesting developments. In 2000, three distinct subzones were inserted into the Production Specification, Nizza (which in 2016 becomes an autonomous DOCG), Tinella and Colli Astigiani. In 2008 the DOC became a DOCG, reflecting the growth started long before.

Trained on the best sun-exposed hills, Barbera is harvested in late September. Currently, the winemakers practice thinning and the grape selection in the vineyard to improve their fruit quality. Their experience combined with scientific analysis can produce wines with the typical Barbera vitality, but also smoothing out the contours resulting in wines that are both authentic and modern.

If in the vineyard, all the cultivation methods are virtually the same, focused on the grape quality, in the winery, there are two production processes: fermentation in steel for a fresh wine that can be enjoyed young or aging in barrels and barriques for Barbera Superiore, a wine with complex aromas and taste designed for a deferred consumption over time. Thanks to its natural acidity smoothed out by malolactic fermentation,

In Photo: Masterclass “Barbera Revolution” guided by Kerin O’Keefe (www.winemag.com) and organized by Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato

A recent study on 100 important winemakers conducted by the Consortium shows that the current domestic and export sales are almost the same. In 2008, 55.93% of Barbera was sold in Italy and 44.07% abroad, while in 2014 the export sales reached the 49.42%. The highest growth was recorded in the USA. In 2010, this market was only 10% of the total, but in 2014 it was 22%, climbing 4 positions and passing Germany whose 18%, had been in the 1st place for 4 years. The other countries are England (14%), Canada (10%), Denmark (7%), Switzerland (6%).

The Numbers of Consortium 

  • 323 associated companies
  • 13 protected Denominations
  • 2 Docg: Barbera d’Asti and Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato;
  • 10 Doc: Albugnano, Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato, Dolcetto d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, Grignolino d’Asti, Loazzolo, Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco, Monferrato, Piemonte, Terre Alfieri.
  • 7 Denominations submitted to Erga Omnes functions: Barbera d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, Dolcetto d’Asti e Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato, Loazzolo, Terre Alfieri, Albugnano.

The Soils 

The hills where Barbera is grown date back to the Tertian age, about 2 million years ago, when the sea left the current Pianura Padana, and started the very intense erosive processes that shaped the current Piedmont region landscape. They are poor in organic substances and often dry in summer because the slopes can’t hold water. There are two main types of soils: the white soils and the Asti area sands.

The first ones, more ancient, are common in the Canelli, Alessandria, Casale, and in the south of Asti areas. They are marly calcareous soils on gentle slopes, with light grey or beige color, rich in calcium carbonate, silt and clay and in contact with the substrate at shallow depth where it’s easy to find fossil shells. The wines produced in this areas are full bodied with a deep colour and long lasting.

The Asti area sands are marine sedimentary deposits created in the Pliocene. They are mostly in the middle of the Asti Monferrato zone, on both sides of Tanaro river, with steep slopes. Wines from this area have less acidity and age more quickly.

The Barbera Variety 

Barbera was probably first cultivated in the Middle Age, but its first historic appearanceis in a cadastral document from the municipality of Chieri that dates back to 1512. From the beginning, Barbera grapes were used to produce wine for personal consumption only, starting the daily relationship between men and vine that represents its main identity.

Barbera spread quickly throughout all of the Monferrato, Asti and Alessandria areas, but officially became a Piemonte wine in the first version of “Ampelography”, written in 1798 by the Count Nuvolone for the Società Agraria di Torino (Agrarian Society of Turin). In these years, Barbera conquers the markets of the surrounding big cities, giving the producers high revenues. The railroad to Genova opened new international markets, resulting in both commercial growth and an increase in the number of vines that grows further after the phylloxera period, thanks to Barbera’s resistence to the disease.

The production specifications

  • Territory: 167 municipalities in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria
  • Ampelography: not less than 90% Barbera grapes, 10% other non-aromatic red grapes allowed to be grown in Piedmont region
  • Yield: 90 q.ls/hectar
  • Minimum natural alcohol content: 12.00% vol, 12.50% vol for Superiore
  • Release in the market: Barbera d’Asti not before March 1st of the years following the harvest vintages; Barbera d’Asti Superiore not before January 1st of the the second years following the harvest vintages, with a minimum aging period of 6 months in oak barrels
  • Barbera wine characteristics: minimum total acohol content 12.00% vol,12.50% vol for Superiore; dry extract: 24 gr/l and 25 gr/l for Superiore; total acidity: 4,5 gr/l minimum

Barbera d’Asti can be both a fresh and easy to drink wine, as well as a complex wine able to wait for a better moment to be opened.

This double personality combined with its food-friendliness helps Barbera d’Asti find even more space in the mature and conscious foreign markets.

The numbers Of Barbera D’Asti Docg

Barbera d’Asti Docg Piemonte Doc Barbera
vendemmia Hl rivendicati Hl rivendicati
2000 215.602 n.d.
2001 247.526 n.d.
2002 225.636 n.d.
2003 229.578 n.d.
2004 255.960 n.d.
2005 244.094 n.d.
2006 276.368 n.d.
2007 282.715 n.d.
2008 229.567 104.840
2009 231.946 110.478
2010 221.170 162.369
2011 232.673 94.043
2012 223.057 76.112
2013 226.806 145.711
2014 209.399 121.014
2015 215.306 89.024
2016 218.626 105.910
2017 211.113 73.106

Barbera d’Asti Docg Piemonte Doc Barbera
anno solare HL Bottiglie (0,75 l) HL Bottiglie (0,75 l)
2011 178.552 23.806.994 198.901 26.520.175
2012 157.686 21.024.744 159.579 21.277.249
2013 157.595 21.012.708 147.756 19.700.839
2014 166.046 22.139.475 154.900 20.653.397
2015 153.595 20.479.354 145.444 19.392.572
2016 149.043 19.872.469 144.737 19.279.121
2017 158.506 21.134.233 151.949 20.259.944

Tasting the Barbera D’Asti

Barbera has a bright and deep ruby color that turns to garnet with aging. The nose is intense and vigorous, with winy notes typical of a young Barberaand a red fruit bouquet, fresh at the beginning like cherry, blackberry, raspberry and plum. The Superiore version, thanks to the aging in wood, is rich in spicy notes like vanilla and cocoa that create a complex wine.

In the mouth, the impact is immediate: first is a pleasant acidity, then a dry, intense taste with a mix of fruit and delicate floral notes. Barbera d’Asti is round and silky, with a nice sapidity and good balance among its organoleptic elements. In the Superiore wines, the sensations are more complex with spicy notes of chocolate, vanilla and coffee that go well with the lush, fruity taste.

In general, Barbera d’Asti, especially Barbera Superiore, is an intense, complex and persistent wine, with well-balanced acidity, alcohol and fruitiness where the freshness renews with every sip which makes it a unique experience.

The other varieties cultivated since The Middle Ages in the Monferrato area should also be remembered since they together with Barbera create unique biodiversity in the Italian wine scene that is well-represented by the high number of denominations protected by the Consortium.

Some of them represent small areas, others are very large and include all the regional varieties, such as the DOC Piemonte. Whatever the characteristics of each DOC, the Consortium’s efforts to protect and promote them don’t change.

The Denominations currently protected are:

  • Barbera d’Asti Docg
  • Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato Docg
  • Nizza Docg
  • Albugnano Doc
  • Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato Doc
  • Dolcetto d’Asti Doc
  • Freisa d’Asti Doc
  • Grignolino d’Asti Doc
  • Loazzolo Doc
  • Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco Doc
  • Monferrato Doc
  • Piemonte Doc
  • Terre Alfieri Doc

Brachetto d’Acqui, DOCG, Rosé Sparkling

Share
Share
Share