Wine Cellar: Benvenuto Barbera

Israeli winemakers begin to experiment with a favorite Italian red.

pouring wine glass 88 (photo credit: )
pouring wine glass 88
(photo credit: )
Known as the most important Piedmontese variety after Nebbiolo, Barbera is an Italian red wine, considered the everyday drinking wine of the region. Barbera is one of the most widely-planted grapes in Piedmont, where it is grown in a number of areas such as Alba and Asti, both high-quality regions which are a bit different in styles. Barbera D'Asti is closer to Beaujolais style, while Barbera D'Alba is more full-bodied and robust. The grape produces a light, fruity and aromatic wine that a lot of people compare to Beaujolais, with nice bright acids and low tannin. It's a red than can easily be drunk young, also like Beaujolais, but with its solid strength of acid, it lasts a bit longer in the bottle. The simple, inexpensive Barberas deliver bright plum and black cherry aromas and flavors, while the more serious ones offer a dark purple color with ripe black fruit aromas. Barbera responds well to oak, which can impart rich smoke and vanilla tones, and it's a good candidate for cellaring. Even the most modest Barbera will improve within two to three years. With time, the wine can acquire charm and elegance as it drops its acidity, so it's good while young but don't be surprised at how a two-year-old can develop more substance. In Israel the Barbera grape is not widely planted and so far only few of the local vintners have experimented with this variety. As the grape has natural high acidity, it desires to be grown in a hot climate where the temperature variations of hot days and cool nights make good growing conditions for finer fruit. LAST WEEK the Galil Mountain winery released its first wine made entirely of Barbera grapes grown at the Yiron vineyard. The winery, a joint venture between the Golan Heights Winery and Kibbutz Yiron, was established in 2000 and now is one of the country's most dynamic wineries. With 800 dunams of vineyards located in the country's finest wine-growing areas, including the Kadesh Valley and the mountains of Upper Galilee, each of the five vineyards is characterized by a different climate and topography, offering an excellent opportunity for production of high-quality wines. Ninety percent of the harvest consists of red grapes used for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Barbera and Sangiovese. The rest are white grapes grown for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. A graduate of the University of California at Davis, winemaker Micha Vaadia is at the helm of the Galil Mountain's winemaking team. Vaadia has worked at wineries in California, Argentina and New Zealand. He joined the Golan Heights Winery in 1999, and in 2006 was appointed as the chief winemaker of the Galil Mountain winery. The modern building of the establishment, designed by Micha's brother, is an innovative architectural concept enabling the visitors to enjoy a total experience which includes a view of the long stretches of grapevines covering the local landscape as well as a view of the inner halls with their shiny stainless steel tanks and the oak barrels. The Barbera 2006 of the Galil Mountain winery is actually a lovely wine with a solid core of blackberry and cherry flavors. I don't have the chance to drink too much of this variety, but no doubt Vaadia has bottled an excellent opportunity (especially for new wine drinkers) to explore yet another varietal. Not over oaked, with notes of vanilla, it is an easy-drinking, well balanced wine that goes down bright and clean. Think young, fruity and fresh, and this one will be more than satisfying. NIS 60. (kosher) [email protected]