Barbaresco is a wine district in the Piedmont region of North-Western Italy which produces wines using the Nebbiolo grape.
Similar to Barolo (which is a nearby district), Barbaresco is not a very user friendly wine, as they require aging, otherwise they will come off as fiercely tannic and acidic. When comparing the two wines, Barberesco are marginally less powerful, but more elegant that Barolo. In fact, there’s a popular phrase, that Barolo is the King of Red wine, while Barberesco is the Queen.
While still a strong red (with both tannin and alcohol), the colour of the wine is in fact, often light. This is because the Nebbiolo grape, while fiercely tannic, has a thin skin (much like Pinot Noir does).
Traditional Barbaresco was made by fermenting Nebbiolo grapes in gigantic wooden casks, that were often made out of chestnut, for up to two months (to squeeze out as much tannin as possible). A modern style Barbareso uses French oak, in smaller barrels. The tannin in the french oak is sweeter, and offsets the harsh tannin of the Nebbiolo grape. Smaller barrels means the juice ferments quicker, leading to a fruitier and richer red. Meanwhile the charred french oak adds a deeper colour to this light red.
With proper maturity their luscious bouquet of black cherries, espresso, licorice and tar are revealed. And this, along with the balance of sweet, savory and spice, is what makes Barbaresco incredibly appealing. It’s a wine that needs to be aged to be appreciated. It is a also a wine meant for an incredible meal!
Barbaresco & Food
Traditional pairings for Barbaresco are rich meat focused dishes like braised short ribs, beef roasts, lamb or veal chops. Here you’ll find that the smoke and earthy qualities of the wine are complemented by the dish.
Feathered game, such as duck, goose, partridge, or quail are also excellent. These birds are slightly gamey and earthy and taste exquisite with the perfumed nose of Barbaresco. We’d recommend not using a heavy fruit sauce which could overpower the wine. For similar reasons, stewed rabbit, and wild boar make excellent companions to Barbaresco.
Barbaresco, is also amazing with earthy dishes that have mushrooms or truffles, again due to the smokey and earthy qualities of the wine. A roast goose accompanied by a risotto with porcini mushrooms, or a grilled steak with a side of grilled mushrooms may sound like a simple meal, but it is phenomenal with a robust glass of Barbaresco.
Barbaresco pair well with earthy cheeeses such as Fontina Val d’Aosta or Toma di Carmagnola from Piedmont.
If your Barbaresco is well aged, stay away from rich sauces that might overwhelm the wine. Not something you want to do if you’ve been holding on to your bottle for ten plus years.
Notable Producers of Barbaresco
The Riserva on the label refers to a wine that has been aged for 50 months.