If I could, wood you?

[tasting glasses]Confession time. My fear that barbera had become a battle between the acid-preserving, tart-fruited traditionalists and the lush-living modernista barrique warriors was ill-founded. No such war exists. The barriquestas have won, obliterated the field, and danced on the graves of their fallen foes.

Alas for poor barbera. The grape, it appears, never had a chance against the aspirational onslaught of modernity that has wrenched and rent it into…I don’t know. What is it, anymore? Not itself, for certain. Not barbera. Now…it’s just wine. Or rather, Wine™©.

The full telling of the damage – and there was indeed damage, to both my palate and my oenological optimism – will wait while I connect over a hundred notes to their respective wines (and that’s just day one…more turgid wood awaits tomorrow, and the next day, and in neither case will the phrase live up to its salacious possibilities). But for now, a few of the pallid rays of light in an otherwise gloomy day, weathered from glass to glass. There were more, but this will do for a teaser.

Crivelli 2008 Barbera d’Asti La Mora (Piedmont) – Succulent dark cherries, with darker berries along for the ride. An intense dark fruited-core, linear but very approachable. Purplish. Good acidity.

Damilano 2008 Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont) – Very dark, with black pepper-dusted blueberry driving the nose, albeit that driving is pushed past the normal limits, leading to a lot of grinding gears and protesting engine roars. Continues with slashing, intense fruit…rich, vibrant, and almost neon-toned. Very long. Modern, perhaps, but quite good in its idiom, and solid for what’s a fairly large-production wine.

Marcarino 2009 Barbera d’Asti “Zero in Condotta” (Piedmont) – A barbera done sensi solfiti, which is a clear rarity in these parts (and considered one step aside from witch doctoring and career suicide by nearly everyone else in the region who’s expressed an opinion), though micro-oxidation and inoculated yeast both play their part. The philosophical contradictions inherent in this wine, and in fact this winery’s overall approach, will have to wait for a future post, but this is quite fascinating. Barbera in its freshest, most natural state is already akin to the semi-standardized, semi-carbonic taste of unsulfured wines across appellations and varieties, so this approach would seem to be a no-brainer. The result is exceedingly violet, both in color and aroma, with the usual spiky brittleness cut with lavish acidity, fruit that wavers between blueberries and grapes, and a lingering, fine-ground crystalline tannin. Pretty, yet the overly-vivid tones of 80’s mascara are present as well (Donna Mills, where have you gone?), and the acid definitely takes over on the finish. A worthy effort, whatever the totality of the outcome.

Il Falchetto 2008 Barbera d’Asti Superiore Lurëi (Piedmont) – A dramatic wine. Single-site purity, revealed in high-toned minerality (apparently very typical for the site), with a granitic, firm structure and texture buoyed by striking acidity. Very, very impressive. The best thing I’ll taste all day, out of well over a hundred swings at the barbera bat.

Disclosure: all wine, food, lodging, and all transportation paid for by various interested parties. See http://barbera2010.com/ for details on the people and entities involved. My tasting notes have not been influenced in any way, nor has my work on this blog and/or my own site, but the content of any work appearing only on the official Barbera Meeting 2010 blog may (or may not) have been edited for content.


  • oswaldo costa

    March 11, 2010


  • Scott Reiner

    March 11, 2010

    are we basically in a situation where one can drink de forville, degli ulivi and maybe 10 other barberas, and that is simply it for the grape?

  • Richard

    March 11, 2010

    So basically the producers of Barbera have given up on the small coterie of overly self-conscious, tasting book encumbered wine geeks? Good for them. The producers are in the business to make money, and if this is what gets it for them so much the better.

  • thor iverson

    March 17, 2010

    Oswaldo: yes.

    Scott: I wouldn't go that far. Thankfully, as an export market much of this culling has been done for us. I don't think a tasting of barberas available in the States would be nearly as depressing as this was, though there would certainly be highs and lows.

    Richard: whatever works for them, sure. Though an awful lot of people in the trade from various countries (of which the U.S. was just one) kept trying to tell them that there was no additional market for wines of this type. I can't confirm or deny that, though it matches what I hear from our local trade. I will say that there seems to be a conflation of markets on their part: what the supermarket and big box customers want vs. what the wine store customers want, and making wine styled for one but priced for the other.

    But I guess we'll see how they sell.

    I'm curious, though: could you point to a period in which the producers of barbera have ever made wine to satisfy "the small coterie of overly self-conscious, tasting book encumbered wine geeks"? It seems to me that you're making an argument that's more about the argument than it is the reality.


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