Barbera, when you ask most people their initial reaction to the name might yield blank stares, or worse. While Barbera is capable of producing some impressive wines it is also all too capable of producing pretty bad wines, both with capable winemaking and without. The problem lies with Barbera’s incredibly high natural acidity, and the issues that surround taming that acidity.
 
Just to put things in perspective, until recently the DOC regulations for Barbera required the wines to have a minimum of 6 grams per liter of acidity, though since 2011 that minimum has been lowered to 4.5 grams, the same as for Barolo. One key difference between the two is that Barolo also is required to have a minimum alcohol of 13%, which it may actually achieve at something close to the 4.5 grams of minimum acidity. Barbera on the other hand is required to have a minimum alcoholic content of 12% and at 12% Barbera is going to have closer to twice that minimum 4.5 grams. And thus was born the battery acid Barbera of years past which met the minimum alcoholic requirement  while delivering enough acidity to predigest any food it may have had the misfortune to come in contact with.
Those wines were difficult at best and often awful and unpalatable. The regulations were changed to allow for a more modern and friendlier expression of Barbera, one that has developed over the past three decades. A Barbera that is softer, with lower acidity, but the only way to get that lower acidity is to allow the grape to ripen well beyond what was once typical. That of course has stopped very few from trying and what we have been offered over the past years was this new “improved” Barbera made from overripe grapes with soft acidity, jammy, cooked fruit flavors and no structure. You know what what happens next, we add some structure! And while we’re at it, let’s not skimp on the vanilla and toasty flavors of new oak. 
 
Yes these wines that were being developed in order to offer a more drinkable Barbera quickly become Super-Barbera, stuffed with alcohol, oak, and all the trappings of “Super” wines everywhere, which sadly left them with no resemblance to fine Barbera and decidedly difficultt o drink at times.  Of course there had always been a question as to what exactly fine Barbera was in the first place so producers were able to get away with this bit of chicanery for quite some time, in fact to this day.
 
Unlike with say Dolcetto, which suffered a similar fate until its recent return to it’s more attractive fresh and simple self, no one really wants Barbera to return to it’s shrill and sharp self; that personality it often possessed up until the early 1980s. Without a broadly accepted model for what Barbera should be there continues to be many avenues open to producers, and while the over-oaked examples of the past decade are not where I want Barbera to go, I do find that judicious use of oak can create a very valid and enjoyable example. 
 
There is no doubt that there is a consensus forming as to what Barbera should become and it seems with each passing vintage the range of what constitutes great Barbera continues to converge on some middle ground. The grape should, first and foremost, have acidity that is proud and assertive; it is simply what the grape is made of. Oaky or not is becoming less important as the overt effects of oak become less fashionable, but some time in wood helps to soften Barbera, which is not a terrible thing. And then there is the question of alcohol, which to a certain extent goes hand in hand with acidity. Barbera is going to be a higher alcohol wine. 14% to 15% will be the norm as producers work to bring the acidity down to a palatable and broadly acceptable level. 
 
I have always been a fan of what i consider to be ‘authentic’ Barbera, though I must admit that during my visit to Piedmont this past May I was more impressed with the progress made with Dolcetto in that arena than the Barbera. Some of that had to do with the lighter and less ripe character of recent vintages, but also there was the known and acknowledged traditional paradigm for Dolcetto to return to. I look forward to future vintages where Barbera can find its own path forward as well. Judging from this batch of wines there are quite a few models worth emulating.
 
One final note here, most of these wines are Barbera d’Alba, which is a broad appellation that covers the regions responsible for  Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as Dolcetto.  While there has been considerable recent planting here, virtually all of it nebbiolo destined for less expensive barolo and Barbaresco, the other grapes are all relegated to land not deemed worthy of Nebbiolo. While this doesn’t make Barbera and Dolcetto second class wines, each grape of course does require some differing considerations as far as orientation and altitude go, it does mean that these tend to be the maximum expression of Barbera’s potential, though they are the most commonly found examples due to the marketing power of these successful producers.
 
Barbera d’Alba is just one of the  seven DOC appellations for Barba and if you enjoy this grape I urge you expand your horizons and try some examples from one of the other DOCs where they may be the starring grape afford the best locations in vineyards. In particular Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Colli Tortonesi Barbera, and Colli Novaresi Barbera are all worth searching out and experiencing. 
 
 
 
High toned on the nose with aromas of blue mineral earth, dusty, blue flowers, and wild berry fruit that shows a bit more red fruit character than the Cerretta.  This shows great focus and definition in the mouth with great old vine character, elegant yet really snappy and well focused. There’s an amazing purity and rawness to this, it’s fresh and shows not a hint of alcohol with incredible purity to the fruit  that widens out on the back end with black spices, a nice earthy, mineral component and fleshy, ripe plummy fruit supported by gentle tannins. With ait this does develop a leathery note on the nose which might be off-putting to some,  but I just kept on drinking this. Awesome Barbera. 95pts

 
 
One additional year in wood, often used to season botte, about half sees barrique, in this year because of new botte no new barrique but typically fifteen to twenty percent, full south exposure of the vineyard, high temps,little thermic excursion, a tight little valley with a very steep vineyard, high percentages of sand, very narrow rows, no tractors can be used so all manual work.
 
This has a really big nose that is barely fruit driven showing instead layers of forest floor, leather, dried meat, bramble and dark macerated floral aromas over a base of small blackberry fruits. Opulent on entry and chewy in the mouth with an attractive lightweight density to the wine, it’s not heavy but it is a bit thick with the  acidity kicking in early and showing decisively but not too elevated. there’s great power and length, this is fabulous in a rich, powerful fresh and clear style. A really attractive blend of power and grace. 93pts

 
 
Two years slavonian oak
 
Fairly opaque color for Barbera, ,this comes from Bricco delle Viole, old vines of 40 years or more, 
 
Very aromatic and both subtle and complex on the nose with aromas of forest floor, violets, soil and macerated black fruits. On entry here is a bit noticeable wood tannin, though this is  round, opulent and rich,  with a hint of RS and filled with jammy black fruits. Silky smooth with  great depth of flavor, there is impressive freshness here considering the power and weight, and there are also some fairly prominent tannins that help drive the plum and wild cherry flavors through the long savory finish. this holds its 15% very well and if you think, outside of Barbera expectations this is a very special wine. 93pts

 
 
Very aromatic on the nose and filled with aromas of clay rich soil. musky spice, and freshly crushed black fruit. On entry this is tight and a bit wooly with some pencil lead accents early on followed by  powerful, broad dark ripe and yet transparent fruit. A firmly tannic barbera that is  a little chewy, deep and long with mulberry and boysenberry fruit that offers palate staining intensity and exceptional liquory and vinous length. 93pts

 
 
Vines planted in 1948, old rupestris,
 
Spicy and sweet nose which is stunning and totally terroir driven, hinting at a little camphor, mild wild berry fruit, and a licorice top note. This is a little on the soft side for Barbera but clear and open with fresh wild berry fruit, succulent red currants and wild blackberries topped with minty hints and a touch of stemmy and woodsy complexity. Totally refined and totally compelling Barbera. 93pts

 
 
Tobacco, dried raspberries, tar, earth, spice, and a little blackcurrant fruit all waft up gently from the glass. Opening with good acids this is quickly soft, broad in the mouth,  ripe with a touch of pomegranate and chocolate wrapped around black cherry fruit that is supported by bright fine tannins and lots of chocolate on the finish. This is fresh,with pretty perfumes in the mouth and lovely length to the slightly candied black raspberry fruit. I tasted this blind and did not think it was Barbera. A gorgeously aged example. 92pts

 
 
Two three days more of maceration, one year 15 Hl in botte
 
Production is from .66 hectare, 1500 bottles, half point of alcohol higher than the normal bottling, plants yield small clusters,  very small and very tight, small berries, give a wine of unusual extraction and richness,
 
Chocolate and toasted herbs greet the nose followed by hint, a little of herb stem, a touch of dried basil stem, earth, ash, old wood and a bit of dried berry fruit. This is exciting in the mouth, rich and with great depth yet clear and bright as it dances across the palate. The purity of the black fruit is terrific and the  nice firm tannins and  lovely firm and integrated acids offer exceptional balance yielding an elegant wine that  has an innate sweetness to the fruit and a lightly tactile quality to the dry extract. Fascinating wine. 92pts
 
 
 
Just bottled a week ago
 
Floral and intense on the nose with a complex array of grapefruit, quinine and red fruit aromas. On entry one finds nice acidity supporting bright red fruit that shows a bit of plum and a little watermelon flavor on what is a pretty lightweight mid palate though it shows real cut in a lovely, clear bright, and tense style that has  small powdery tannins adding a bit of density to the long,  juicy and pure finish. This is tense and exciting barbera. 92pts

 
 
15 months in barrique, bottled in August 2012
 
This offers up assertive toasted oak notes paring with the classic slightly herbal and violet driven plummy fruit of Barbera. Lots of wood spice, vanilla and milky notes.  Rich and broad in the mouth with a nice blend of Barbera acidity and sweetness from the wood. The oak is much better integrated in the mouth than on the nose, supporting the fine black currant and black cherry fruit. The finish also shows fine integration with judicious wood tannins paired with the rather bright and assertive acidity. Showing really fine depth this remains transparent on the palate with fine black plum fruit, this should age very well, would love to revisit this in two to three years. 91pts

 
 
1 year in large wood
 
A little tarry on the nose and rich with black fruit, black plums, earth, sweet medicinal notes and a little minty top note. On entry this is tight and focused with really deep fruit that tastes like old vines. A bit of alcohol intrudes early on the palate but the  great acids kick in adding cut and definition leading to a long finish with attractive spice and dried floral accents.This would be great with a rare steak pick a fatty juicy cut like a skirt steak. 91pts

 
 
A little stewy on the nose, complex and earthy and obviously terroir driven. Air brings out blue flowers and ripe blue and plum fruits with chocolate shavings on the nose. This is elegant, clear, and dry rich and ripe in the mouth, not an easy feat to manage. The fruit is quite perfumed in the mouth with hints of chocolate, violets, and stemmy spice adding detail There is impressive clarity of fruit here that shows excellent persistence on the chocolate covered cherry tinged finish. I can’t say this is my favorite style of barbera, this is a bit big but you can’t deny that it is expertly made in this style and judging it within the lineup today one can’t help but realise that this is simply what the vines produced in 2009. 91pts

 
 
15 months in botte
 
Finely focused if a bit smoky on the nose with vivid black fruit aromas,  a touch of black plum and a little spicy top note. This is so well balanced, elegant even though with nice richness and a touch of plum skin tannin adding a little texture to the mouthfeel. The feel is pure and fine driven by great acids on the backend. This is transparent and pure with fine length and balsamic aromas on the finish. There is a distinct lack of noticeable winemaking here, this really speaks of grape and place. 91pts 

 
 
A bit meaty on the nose and very open, complex and intense with black currant and spicy blackberry fruit framed with subtle herbal edges. Elegant and rich on entry with a lovely expression of fruit, just fruit and vineyard captured driven by superb acidity on the long finish which shows a subtle spicy edge. The balance of these wines (while tasting the entire Cascina delle Rose line-up) is just spectacular. 91pts
 
 
 
Two months in botte after a year in barrique
 
Nicely paired wood and dark red and black fruits greet the nose. This is very nicely done, very precise with lovely wild red fruits and small black fruits in a supple and elegant style. There’s a touch of  wood spice that pops on the black cherry finish which shows fine length but there is plenty of buffering material that helps keep the the wood tannins well covered through the finish. Wow this is nice, yes there is wood, the wood builds on the finish and becomes a bit heavy,  but you just have to keep drinking it to keep it covered with the gorgeous fruit. 91pts

 
 
Two green harvests, 70 to 80 quintals per hectare can arrive at 100 with the excellent soil here, 15 days, natural yeast, malo in SS, cold stabilization, one year in slavonian oak, 15 Hl
 
Tight and leathery on the nose with a fine spice note, this is aromatic but not fruity. With a fine plum skin quality early on the palate buffering the cutting acids this is deceptively smooth and polished in the mouth with late arriving herb notes and fine powdery tannins. The acid pops in a big way on the backend with mulberry toned fruit that is succulent and mouthwatering. This is probably pushing the limits of what is a generally acceptable level of acidity but it offers great freshness and classic Barbera cut. 90pts

 
 
Botte for one year, from plots in La Morra, Novello, and Barolo, all told makes 7000 bottles
 
A bit buttery at first, then turning savory and intense with clean, fresh aromas of , ivy with some soapy floral tones layered under brambly berry fruit framed with hints of violets, mace and nutmeg.  Wonderfully pure and fairly intense in the mouth  if not particularly complex, this is very vinous with lots of brambly fruit and a  savory dark ripeness. Made in a rather dry firm, very classic and somewhat rustic style this finishes with great length and a gentle sweetness, probably  the sweetness of alcohol. 90pts

 
 
A bit funky on the nose filled with aromas of licorice, brownie, a little toasted nuts and meaty notes as well.  Big acids on entry flow into  lovely, clear and open fruit that is decisive in a rustic way. The flavors recall the slight oxidative flavors of Barbera from another era, though they do show great depth on the palate. This has near perfect acidity that just piques the palate but is well balanced by the richness of fruit,which gains  a little medicinal herb and beef jerky complexity with just a faint wash of fruit tannin helping to support the midpalate and through the finish. 90pts

 
 
From monforte
One week cool fermentation, one year second passage barrique
 
Nice clarity on the nose which shows a bit of ivy, licorice, a hint of geranium, and tight red plum fruit. This is at once  a little soft and quite powerful with beautiful clarity to the fruit.  I would like to see a little more acidity but this doesn't lack for brightness, showing nice pure fruit with hints of herb, violet, and plum skin on the palate and nice tannins adding a touch of mouthgrab through the moderately long finish.  this should age well with for two to four years. 89pts

 
 
Typically 50 to 55% new oak to add structure
 
A blend of seven pieces in Monforte and Novello and top of hills, ripens relatively late end of september beginning of october
 
Smoky, dark, and a bit matte on the nose with early notes of clove and vanilla over vaguely jammy fruit. Silky, with acids that are soft for Barbera, there is  nice plum skin and black currant fruit on the palate and the oak is surprisingly well integrated, leaving this rich yet not heavy in the mouth with some mineral accents popping on the backend before the oak spice takes control on the long finish which shows tart cherry fruit but surprisingly little wood tannin. A bit of a silky powerhouse. 89pts
 
 
 
10,000 bottles
 
One year in wood, half large half small,
 
From two hectares south of Serralunga, only vineyard outside of Nebbiolo,  ten years old, should be planted in Nebbiolo, equal soil to Serralunga, same subsoil as Cascina Francia
 
Very dark color.
 
Older wood aromas greet the nose bringing some salami notes to the coffee and wood spiced red cherry, currant and plum fruit that’s here. There’s  a hint of something medicinal here as well. At first soft and broad on the palate, then nice acidity shows up adding nice crispness on the palate. Slightly inky and matte in the mouth, with rich black fruit and some creamy cafe au lait character to it that powers the long finish which shows some chewy tannins. This is awfully appealing in its style, which is a bit too modern for me but it’s not overly fruity or sweet. 89pts

 
 
Only produced in special vintage, ie no 2012
 
Smells of wood, smoky and a little mushroomy with some Irish spring soap, and hints of slate, blue fruit, and sweet wood.  Round, lush, packed with blue fruit on entry this is awfully sexy in the mouth in a powerful soft and sleek style There’s a little wood tannin drying out the finish a bit but this does have plenty of concentration of fruit and it shows excellent persistence on the finish. 89pts

 
 
Aged in a 50hl barrrel
 
Woodsy aromas greet the nose where there is  a nice base spice tone, a touch of oyster shells, very pretty slow to emerge violet notes and very clear berry fruit. This is rich, broad and broad in the mouth with a nice tang to the acids. the palate shows great cut to the lovely black fruit,  clear though broad shouldered in the mouth with some wood tannins on the finish, this is elegant and powerful and probably will be better in a year or two. 89pts

 
 
Almost 6 grams of acidity
 
Lovely floral spice pops on the precise nose which shows off precise aromas of fresh fruit that are quite high tned. Perhaps a touch soft on the palate this exhibits lovely clarity with black fruit that is just a touch roasted. The acidity appears later on the palate lending an elegance here and cleansing the palate. This turns into a bit of fruit bomb, not in a pejorative way but this is bursting with juicy black berry, fruit and black plum flavors that linger on the long black fruited finish. 88pts

 
 
Just opened
 
A bit inky and ripe on the nose with floral and vegetal beet root tones, and almost with some Pinot character, kind of Oregon Pinot like. On entry this is  soft and broad though not lacking acidity. there is a lovely backdrop of vegetal notes to the rich  red cherry fruit of the palate which also recalls Oregon’s Pinot.  Cleansing and medium bodied and all about freshness of fruit on the palate, this finishes a bit short with crisp red currant flavors. 88pts

 
 
Bottled fifteen days ago, six months in botte
 
Very tight on the nose with gentle spice and floral aromas. With, a little spritz on the palate, this is rather soft and round and lacks some of the focus one might like to see in Barbera. There’s lots of flannelly rich fruit, , long on the palate and sweetly plummy then tart. Air brings out lots of fresh cut plums on the nose as well. This is rather in a rich and silky style with a long tart red plum finish and some  powdery tannins. It’s very early to being trying this but it does show promise. 88pts
 
 
 
Two and a half  weeks of skin contact, two to three and a half of fermentation, then into barrique, 100% new, 14 months in barrique
 
Pretty fresh on the nose showing some oak though more fruit than oak. This smells fresh a touch woodsy and medicinally icy with a spicy vanilla overlay and some VA shoe polish over black plum fruit. Bright and fresh in the mouth with black and blue plum fruits laid out over vanilla laced base. The wood is obvious on the palate but this really is nicely done, a bit modern but the right weight and balance, zesty and richly fruited, with wood tannins popping a touch on the backend but fading away in balance with the fruit on the finish. A bit simple but very vinous. 88pts

 
 
1000 bottles, family wine
 
Earthy, wiry and coppery on the nose with a little baked fruit aroma. In the mouth this is broad, and surprisingly transparent with nice clarity to the fruit and with some late arriving acidity but this is on the soft side. It’s a lovely and complex wine with intense slIghtly cooked black berry fruit that has almost has a touch of sweetness on the finish backend coming from the alcohol. Good plus but not great, you can smell the dirt here. 88pts

 
 
Sandy soils lends brighter acidity, 7500 btls
 
All barrique at first, 35% new, then a year in botte
 
Sweet wood on the nose is quite pronounced with toasty spice followed by hints of a little fish sauce, a little gummy candy, a little sweet violet pastille, a little beef and some charry aromas. A bit unusual and tight but complex. Rich on entry this also shows a nice sweet/tart character in a rather red fruited way with bright juicy acids up front. Across the  mid palate one finds milky oak and late arriving wood tannins lending a very slightly chewy quality to the backend, which shows more toast than fruit. In its style this is  quite nice though  if it wasn’t for the acidity this could be a new world Barbera. 88pts

 
 
20000 bottles, lots of different plots
 
A little ash on the earthy black fruited nose which shows just a hint of something floral and stemmy. There’s lovely richness and acidity on entry here with a lean,  tense palate impression that shows a nice plum and blackish strawberry tone to the fruit and steely edged acids that drive the clean, lifted finish. I love the freshness and refreshing quality here. This is as classic as a pure expression of barbera gets. 87pts

 
 
SS only, six different vineyards in three different communes, Barolo, Serralunga, and Novello
 
a year and a half in SS
 
Very direct on the nose with a touch of earthy, savoriness along with a hint of prosciuttos and some shoe polish under dark fruits. Pure, easy, and somewhat low intensity in the mouth with nice acids supporting cut black fruits. There’s lovely integration here with black cherry skin flavors and  just a touch of late arriving peppery spice that lingers on the modest, violet tinged finish. A bit simple but pure fresh and eminently drinkable. 87pts

 
 
All in SS, eight days of fermentation
 
A bit wild and inky on the nose though this is darkly perfumed and spicy. Opening with nice acids this shows plenty of richness and perhaps a little sweetness from alcohol though it remains pretty well balanced in the mouth showing a nice mineral base note under lots of juicy blackberry and black cherry fruit that finishes with good length. A powerful barbera but it remains fruity and relatively fresh 87pts
 
 
 
Oldest vineyard of Barbera that is full south facing towards Monforte, small grapes, always makes a powerful wine, high alcohol and high acid, fifteen months in wood, barrique, some botte, almost all new wood, normally uses lots of new wood here,
 
Black fruit and oak greet  the nose along with a nice hit of  leather. This manages to get spicy black cherry aromas out but shows too much oak on the nose. In the mouth this is silky on entry, well integrated, rich and ina voluptuous style that hides its 15% but well. theres quite a bit of brightness on the back end, though this is quite creamy in the mouth with black cherry and spicy oak notes moving from the palate to the slightly dry and tannic finish. Muscular and opulent, rather from the more is better school of winemaking, one can see why this is popular. 87pts

 
 
Finely focused on the nose with old wood toned spice, rose stems and tart dark red fruit aromas.  Smooth on entry and very well integrated this has acidity that is a touch low with soft tannins supporting nice cherried fruit with a little cut plum adding complexity on the modest finish. Easy drinking, if a little creamy in texture,  this is rather small scaled and the acids do make themselves better known on the refreshing finish. 86pts

 
 
A little sweet, floral, and red fruited on the nose this  shows a touch of savory wood as well. Rather sweet/tart on entry with a nice silky feel, there’s a little black raspberry early on the palate, followed by a black fruited, smooth mid-palate with some black spice that pops on the backend and leads to a moderately long finish showing a small black cherry preserves tone. 86pts

 
 
This is very pretty on the nose, floral and herbal with a touch of ink and bright black plum skin and wild berry fruit wrapped up with a hint of chocolate. On entry though this is a bit soft with a touch of a pasty feel that clears up on a midpalate showing clear, glassy black fruit. Rather simple and fresh with floral and red fruit flavors this turns a bit creamy on the backend with cherry skin fruit and dry tannins appearing on the modest finish. 85pts

 
 
two weeks maceration,  two years in botte, a bit younger and smaller sized than for Barolo
 
This shows some caraway seed on the nose, and a little oxidation with some caramel like notes over sweet tart fruit. On entry one finds some fine grained tannins supporting nice plum fruit, along with solid acids that are not over the top but totally noticeable. This lacks some brightness of flavor, and is a bit earthy but there is nice richness to this, rustic, unusually tannic Barbera. The tannin is a little bit a trait of the soil in Bricco Boschis and this has a certain mintiness to it which I often find in the wines of cavallotto which might be terroir, or might be their native yeast. The finish is a bit dry here as well. 85pts

 
 
Over a year in barrique, one third new,eight days of fermentation
 
Tight, a little briar pipe, some soil and wood spice greets the nose along with a bit of toasty spice framing, candied mulberry fruit. The oak here builds with air adding a creamy, cedary aspect to the nose. Soft and  a little creamy in the mouth as well though with nice depth and purity of fruit. This is fairly precise in the mouth but the oak adds sweetness and creaminess that isn't really necessary here. Less lively than the 2011 base bottling but the finish is driven by acid and shows some nice fresh berry fruit before too much wood tannin kicks in to dry everything out. 84pts

 
 
Assemblage of all their plots and Roero, also in this case try to produce a product that represents Barbera the variety
 
Six to seven months of wood,
 
Very ripe on the nose with strong black, dusty, roasted fruit over toasty wood spice. This is a little soft and creamy in the mouth and lacks a little vitality on the palate which does show plenty of  black plummy and spiced cherry fruit. There’s a density here that sticks to the mouth a bit and leaves  the finish a touch pasty. 83pts

 
 
Three day fermentation, 100 percent new oak, for 18 months,
 
Floral and red fruited on the nose with plenty of minty wood and toasty spice. In the mouth this is low with a certain lifeless density. There are some nice violet and blue and boysenberry fruit inner mouth perfumes along with  some wood sweetness and wood  tannins that cut the loose finish short. 83pts