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 ageing. Otherwise, they will come off as fiercely tannic and acidic. When comparing the two wines, Barbaresco is marginally less powerful but more elegant than Barolo. In fact, there’s a popular phrase, that Barolo is the King of Red wine, while Barbaresco 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 Barbaresco 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, crushed red fruit, clove, white pepper, espresso, licorice and tar are revealed. And this, along with the balance of sweet, savoury and spice, is what makes Barbaresco incredibly appealing. It’s a wine that needs to be aged to be appreciated. It is 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.
Barbaresco and Goose
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.
Barbaresco and Stewed Rabbit
For the same reasons that Barbaresco goes with feathered game, it works with stewed rabbit, and wild boar. These two items have a gamey taste that not everyone loves, and Barbaresco is the perfect foil with its black cherry and espresso flavours. The fat in these two foods helps soften the tannin in the Barbersco, showcasing it at its best. Make this pairing even more exceptional by adding mushrooms!
Barbaresco and Mushrooms
Barbaresco is also fabulous 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. For young Barbaresco, you need that high protein and high fat component to tame this wine if it hasn’t been aged.
Barbaresco and Roast Beef
Barbaresco demands a fatty cut of roast beef, such as Prime Rib, to tame this wine’s tannic bite. (if the wine is young). Earthy and fruity, the earthy component of the wine complements the natural beef flavours, while the fruity component of the wine elevates this pairing.
Osso Buco & Barbaresco
Osso Buco is a rich, meaty, and deeply-flavored dish, perfect for a winter’s evening. Pairing it with an equally rich and flavourful Barbaresco makes for a wonderful pairing. Osso Buco tastes deliciously earthy and the earthy component of Barbaresco complements this component. Meanwhile the dark cherry, and crushed raspberry fruit flavors of the wine lighten and enliven the dish.
Barbaresco and Earthy Cheese
Barbaresco pair well with earthy cheeses such as Fontina Val d’Aosta or Toma di Carmagnola from Piedmont.
Barbaresco and Rich Sauces – not so good
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.
Do you have a favourite Barbaresco and Food pairing? Let us know in the comments below!
Discover More Barbaresco Pairings