Italian Barbera is naturally high in acidity and low in tannin, making it perfect with dishes featuring tomatoes such as Pizza, Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, Bruschetta, Penne in a Vodka sauce, and Spaghetti & Meatballs.
Barbera comes in a variety of styles, however, the most popular style is Italian Barbera which is light, bright and fruity with notes of cherry, raspberry and plum. You’ll see these styles of Barbera as Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba, and Barbera di Monferrato. Italian Barbera also features hints of earthiness, spice, and herbs, making it excellent with dishes containing mushrooms or truffles.
Italian Barbera is not a showboat wine. It’s not made to wow you with bold and complex flavours or punch you in the face with searing tannin. Rather, Italian Barbera is made in a style to showcase the food you are eating. Its tart acidity electrifies all the ingredients in your dish, while its light fruitiness offers brief refreshment without getting in the way of whatever you are eating.
Recommended producers of Italian Barbera include Aldo Conterno, Giuseppe Mascarello, Paolo Scavino, Braida, Icardi, Maria Borio, Fontanafredda and Vietti.
Barbera may also be oaked and showcase a bold and flavourful profile. Australia, California, Washington and British Columbia are all experimenting with Barbera of this style. The pairings below do not apply to these oak aged and bolder styles which showcase forceful flavours of spice, vanilla, cherry and blackberry. If you are curious about this style of Barbera, I recommend Barbera from Sandhill, Borjon Complijo, and Viansa Augusto. As for food pairings, the website for these individual and bold Barbera bottles should have excellent recommendations.
Best Food with Barbera
Pizza & Barbera D’Asti Wine Pairing
Barbera is excellent with Pizza for several reasons. The number one reason is that Barbera is light, fruity and low in tannin. When you mesh tannin together with tomato sauce, your wine will end up tasting like tin or aluminum. Barbera, on the other hand, is zippy with acidity so it won’t clash with your pizza.
The acidity in Barbera also helps wash away the fat and salt of your Pizza. This means every bite tastes fresh. Fat in Pizza will clog up your taste receptors while salt overcharges them. Ever notice how we often eat too much Pizza. It’s because we are often trying to recapture the thrill of the first few bites. With Barbera, every bite will taste as delicious as the first as the acidity keeps your mouth refreshed. Thus, you’ll have some tasty leftovers to look forward to for lunch the next day, rather than slipping into a food coma at night.
Finally, Barbera is low in alcohol, so if you’re enjoying a Pizza and a bottle of wine for dinner, you’ll feel more refreshed than if you had a heavier bottle of wine.
As for Pizza, there are no limits with Barbera (other than fruits like Pineapple or Mango). Ham, Pepperoni, Onions, Bell Peppers, Banana Peppers, BBQ Chicken, mushrooms and sausage all get along great with Barbera.
Penne alla Vodka & Barbera d’Alba Pairing
Vodka Sauce is an orange-looking pasta sauce made from tomatoes, heavy cream, herbs and vodka. The cream makes it taste smooth and rich while still maintaining the tartness of the tomatoes. Italian Barbera pairs well with Penne alla Vodka as this red wine is low in tannin, complements the sauce with its fruity and herbal flavours, which mimic the sweetness of the tomatoes and the greenness of the herbs. Meanwhile, the acidity of Barbera cuts through the rich cream allowing each bite to taste fresh.
For similar reasons, Barbera d’Alba is exceptional with the spicy tomato and cream based sauce of Chicken Tikka Masala.
Prosciutto and Barbera Pairing
Barbera isn’t just meant for tomato based dishes, and there’s a whole other world of food pairings to experiment with this red wine (check out the table above!). Salty and fatty foods such as Prosciutto are excellent with Barbera as the crisp acidity washes away the fattiness and salt of this cured meat. Keeping your palate cleansed with Barbera allows the melt-in-your-mouth flavours of Prosciutto to taste amazing, bite after bite. The saltiness of the cured meat also makes the wine taste brighter, allowing the fruity flavours of cherry and raspberry to taste even more refreshing.
Italian Barbera is also recommended with a Charcuterie board, where you have a variety of cheeses and meats on hand to enjoy with this red wine. Naturally low in Alcohol, Barbera will ensure you and your guests won’t get too tipsy should you be enjoying a little wine and cured meat before dinner.
Lasagna & Barbera Wine Pairing
Light and fruity, Barbera makes for an excellent wine pairing with Lasagna as it offers refreshing and contrasting flavours of cherry, plum and raspberry to Lasagna’s dense flavours of meat, cheese and pasta. With Lasagna already being so flavourful, you don’t need a wine to compete with it, rather, you need a wine like Barbera which will showcase your Lasagna.
Barbera’s acidity lifts up the individual flavours in your Lasagna, making the layers of meat, cheese, and roasted vegetables stand out, so you taste each individual flavour. The acidity also whisks away the taste bud clogging flavours of the pasta noodles, beef fat and cheese fats which would normally taste your third or fourth bite of Lasagna taste muted. With Barbera, each bite of delicious Lasagna tastes as fresh as the last. Finally, Barbera’s rustic herbal notes blend in perfectly the herbal tomato sauce of your Lasagna making your meal taste even more delicious.
Chicken Parmesan & Barbera Pairing
Chicken Parmesan is often smothered in tomato sauce, thus it requires an acidic red wine like Barbera. Here the sweetness of the cherry, plum and raspberry flavours complement the sweetness of the tomato sauce. Herbal and rustic, Italian Barbera also complements the herbal element that is blended into your Chicken Parmesan.
Barbera also cuts through the gooey cheese and breading on your chicken which helps the subtle chicken flavours stand out. The chicken is what you are paying for after all, so you’ll want to be able to taste those delicious poultry flavours.
Finally, Barbera once again keeps your taste buds cleansed. With Chicken Parmesan, the deep-fried breading on the chicken along with the cheese can clog up your taste receptors, meaning after a few bites, everything tastes muted and boring. With Barbera, you get the excitement of that first bite back instantaneously, making for a delicious food and wine pairing.
Barbera is exceptional with other chicken dishes featuring tomatoes including Butter Chicken, Pizza topped with Chicken, Chicken Cacciatore, or a creamy tomato chicken skillet dinner.