What are the differences between Barbera D’Alba & Barbera D’Asti?

Let’s push aside the two big B’s of Piedmont for a second & take some time to discuss the most planted red grape variety in Piedmont.

Barbera’s juicy, ripe fruit & vibrant acidity makes it the safe companion to most Piedmontese dishes. Often weathering the ‘vino della casa/house wine’ role in local restaurants - what makes it special?

Contrary to popular belief, Barbera isn’t a simple wine.

It can be made in a variety of styles; from a mouth cleansing red for a wine lover seeking a moment of relaxation, to something more complex for the expert taster to inspect. Due to the dark staining pigments in its skin, the vino is rich in colour, however the aromas reflect those of a lighter bodied wine, like Pinot (strawberry & mouth watering cherry). This mix creates something that requires a little more thinking.

There may be plenty of Barbera grapes, however wine made from Barbera is never the same, as always it depends on the hand of the producer, the vintage and the production area.

With this in mind, let’s talk about the differences of the two most famous Italian Barbera’s: Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba.

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The Finer Details

BARBERA D’ASTI

Region: Piedmont
Area: Asti
Communes: Nizza, Tinella and Astiani Hills. (The production area of Barbera d'Asti covers more than a hundred municipalities in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria)
DOCG: from 2008
Grapes used: contains at least 85% Barbera / 15% from either Freisa, Grignolino or Dolcetto used alone or together (many producers prefer to vinify in purity)

Styles: 

  • CLASSIC: min alcohol content of 12% and must mature 4 months in steel or wood according to the choices of the producer

  • SUPERIOR: min alcohol content of 12.5% and must make at least 14 months of ageing with a minimum of 6 months in oak or chestnut barrels

Nose: fruity, with cherry, strawberry, raspberry and spicy notes of vanilla in the Superior
Palateround, soft , good acidity, easy to drink

BARBERA D’ALBA

Region: Piedmont
Area: Langhe
Communes:  Province of Cuneo
DOC: since 1970
Grapes: 100% Barbera. It is not permitted to use other grapes.
Styles: 

  • CLASSIC: freedom on ageing if the wine has a maximum alcohol content of 12%. The producer can also decide to put it on the market immediately.

  • SUPERIOR: min alcohol content of 12.5% with aging of 12 months in oak or chestnut

Nose: fruity with blackberries, prunes and floral notes spicy notes of vanilla for the Superior
Palate: good body, balanced, distinctly acidic

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So, how are they different?


Let’s recap the standard so we can understand the following two better : it is basically fresh, fruity and easy to drink. Marked by high acidity, low tannins & a deep ruby red colour. Among the fruity aromas, usually cherry stands out. Here's what happens, though, if Barbera has different origins:

REGION OF BARBERA D’ASTI: 

Asti is a little bit more dry & sandy, for this reason we have a powerful more intense Barbera which is concentrated and more masculine. It generally has a greater presence of red fruit enriched by a mineral complexity. On the palate the tannin is more grippy and the acidity is pleasant. Soft, round and balanced. Among the fruity notes are minerals and spices.

REGION OF BARBERA D’ALBA:

Alba holds more acidity in the soil, it’s a little more humid & the rain help make the floral aspect in the wine. If you love acidity this is the Barbera that suits you. The aromas are centered on blue/black fruit and wild violets.

* Note: other areas for Barbera in Italy include Monferrato (Piedmont), Aosta, Puglia & Sardinia.

So what will it be, d'Asti OR d'Alba?

Neighbouring counterparts, rivalling profiles. To recap; Abla tends to ripen early, intensely floral & violet characteristics, silky, rich & smooth. Asti, is bright, different, leans towards red fruit with more aggressive tannins. For this reason Asti needs another year on the ageing process.

In the words of Luca Currado Vietti

"Alba is an elegant woman with finess that you can dance with, Asti is a determinated, powerful, intense, a woman you gotta watch out for"

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BY CHLOE CRISTALLINI

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