What's That Grape: Barbera
Barbera is the Scottie Pippen of Piemonte Grape Varieties. Obviously Nebbiolo is the Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman is Dolcetto, hell Steve Kerr is Moscato D'Asti, but the most widely planted variety is Barbera and plays second fiddle to Neb (how'd you like my Last Dance references?). It's loved by the locals, but doesn't have the cult adoration of Dolcetto or isn't put on the pedestal of the King of Grapes like Nebbiolo, but is such a pivotal part of the Piemonte wine region - and is sometimes just that bit easier to drink.
It's actually the third most planted grape variety in Italy (after Sangiovese and Montepulciano), and much like many widely planted grape varieties, at its most joyous it's best for fresh, young and instant drinking - elevated levels of acidity, pretty relaxed tannins and has got all those awesome bright red fruits, a grape best enjoyed chilled! It can be made more serious in some of their DOCG styles, picked a bit later and riper (some classifications ask for minimum ABV's), with a bit more rusticity. While it's an awesome style and has its place, we definitely lean towards the fresher side.
It's also a popular variety outside of the Land of the Great Boot! It has made its way far and wide - Argentina, Israel, South Africa, The U.S of A and oh yes, Australia. It's been here for a little while too, originally planted in the 1960s, in Mudgee NSW, before starting to move further and wider, like the Hunter Valley, planted by Andrew Margan of Margan Wines, then moving further south to the King Valley and in SA via McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills.
There's not all that much round our way, but we'd love to see more but there is two special plots that we draw from or have drawn from, one from the aforementioned Adelaide Hills and one in the Clare Valley. The Hills vineyard is the Legendary Arrivo Vineyard, mostly focussed on Nebbiolo but with 4 scattered clones of Barbera similar to great Piemonte Vineyards - these resultant wines were Exocarpos and Pastafarian.
We no longer get fruit from that vineyard (we've got one wine to release from it next year), but there is another special plot that we get Barbera from and it's an awesome little vineyard in the Clare Valley on Polish Hill River - same as Jungle Jungle, Slate Farm and Mallee Gambit - and that's from Hill River Estate, a Penfolds planted vineyard, where they experimented with a wide gamut of varieties! Alongside stuff like Sangiovese, Gewurztraminer and Dolcetto of course, they planted some Nebbiolo and Barbera, which we pick to make the much-beloved Truffle Hound.
It's made in a nod to that old school daily drinking style of Barbera, with the accompanied Nebbiolo. Racy acid, bright plush fruits, and smash-able as all heck. It's a Barbera focused wine, and when Nebbiolo is used, that's a somewhat rare commodity (at least on the label). Scottie Pippen is our favourite Chicago Bull, and Barbera might be our favourite Piemonte Red - maybe.. depends what day of the week you ask us on.