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Portalupi Barbera

Portalupi Barbera

Barbera is an interesting and largely misunderstood grape in America.  But, it is growing. Here’s some more information on the grape, why winemakers like it and a wine made in the Foothills, but from grapes harvested in Mendocino California.

Video Transcription:

Portalupi Barbera Back LabelHi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. All of the stuff you can get a better look at, so this is a Portalupi Barbera. And so, this is going out in wine club shipments this month. I do think Portalupi’s kind of an interesting story. We’ll get to that a little bit more in the newsletter.

For our purposes here, I want to talk about Barbera for just a quick minute. So it’s an Italian wine grape, so in theory it should be an international varietal. It’s obviously planted many places outside of Italy. It’s kind of one of those grapes that if you think about grapes that can exist in a warmer climate, this is kind of on the list. In California here, we’re seeing increased plantings in a number of regions, but most namely in the Sierra foothills. And really in the foothills, their issue is that if you grow Zinfandel, you have to wait, depending on the wine maker that you talk to, 30 years, 60 years, even a hundred years, to get to old vine Zinfandel.

Obviously that’s fairly inconvenient. So what a lot of foothill wineries have done and they won’t talk about, is that if you look at the space where their tasting room is, they’ve actually pulled out Zinfandel to put the tasting room, and in every square inch of the property now, they’re putting in Barbera. And really, Barbera in the Sierra foothills and [Amador 00:01:16] county is functioning the same way that it does in Italy.

You can’t always expect people to either age their wine for decades, or you can’t always age your vines for decades before you sell the wine, so Barbera is this kind of backbone grape that can be planted, sold, consumed immediately. Structurally, it’s this deep, kind of intense flavor. It’s almost like a cooler climate Cabernet, as far as mouth feel and texture goes. And that’s something that people are really looking for. I think, especially when it comes to the difference between Barbera and Zinfandel, you can really kind of see it. Especially older vine Zinfandel, it tends to mellow out and be almost light in body at times. Barbera is this kind of thick, jammy, fruit-forward wine, and I think that’s something that works pretty well, especially in California, and really internationally. So while we think of international grapes really only among the Bordeaux and other French varietals, Barbera might be the one from Italy that stands the best chance to gain wide acceptance in many, many wine regions. Quite frankly, I would think that the folks in Australia would probably really consider planting it in ways that they haven’t quite yet.

So in any case, Portalupi Barbera, it’s very, kind of the Italian style in this case, this actually comes from up in [Mendocino 00:02:39], which is something we’ll get into in the newsletter a little bit. Mendocino has an interesting tale of being this forgotten wine region for a number of years, now kind of coming back into prominence because grapes in Sonoma and Napa, which are directly to its south, got so expensive. So Portalupi sources this from Mendocino county in a specific kind of farm out there, and I think it’s going to be a good example of what Barbera can be in this country and why wine makers love the grape so darn much, because although these vines have some age on them, you can also plant the grape in new soil and good growing conditions and get out a usable product within a handful of years, which isn’t true with some of the other grapes that you might get in the same region.

Thanks again.

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