Barbera, the lesser known grape of Piedmont, Italy, often goes unnoticed by the broader wine community outside of Piedmont. However, show up at a restaurant in Barolo, Italy and you will see bottles of Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti* gracing the tables around you. This is significant as Barolo, a wine named after this restaurant’s commune and made with the Nebbiolo grape, has wine critics shooting fireworks out of their pens. While worthy of the praise, Barolo sits in the castles of the elite, largely untouchable due to its weighty fee–yes, get out your gold. Barbera, however, is the people’s wine.
It also pairs impeccably with your Thanksgiving feast. For those looking to support local wineries this holiday season, the Columbia Gorge AVA of Wagon** country provides. Barbera is grown in few vineyards outside of Italy, but has found a home within the Columbia Gorge. On a recent trip to the Gorge, I tasted multiple bottles of Barbera. All delighted and impressed on this two-day venture. Why Barbera this season? If your host uses as much butter and cream in the gravy and potatoes as mine, Barbera provides an outstanding balance of round, smile-inducing fruit–dark cherry and plum–and zesty acidic zip to cleanse your palate between savory bites. Recommendation: Marchesi Vineyards 2012 Estate Barbera.
For those without access to the boutique Barberas of the Columbia Gorge, Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti will not disappoint. As always, talk with your local wine shop friends (they should be friends) for recommendations. These are not wines of greatness, but they are wines that delight–without breaking the bank ($9-$18 for many noteworthy bottles).
*Those new to Italian wine, Asti and Alba are the mentioned locales well known for growing Barbera, and you will find them labeled as Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti.
**Wa-gon = Washington and Oregon