It was a disappointment to discover that apart from the My Name Is Barbera project, the English language internets are a barren landscape when it comes to solid information about Barbera.
In our last post we debunked 5 common myths about Barbera. As a follow up to that piece, I thought I would create a post with links to English-language resources about Barbera. And so I set about Google-searching things like “Barbera wine” and “Barbera d’Asti.” It was a disappointment to discover that apart from the My Name Is Barbera project, the English language internets are a barren landscape when it comes to solid information about Barbera. And what’s more, they are rife with misinformation about Barbera. I’m really sorry to report that but it’s true.
The Wikipedia entry for Barbera, although very well written, is an example of this. It actually has some good, hard information in it. But it also is the source of a falsehood about Barbera that has been widely and sadly propagated across the world wide webs.
When you Google Barbera, among the sites that come up at the top of the search engine results, nearly all of them report that Barbera is 1,000 years older than Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s weird because nearly all the writers seem to believe that this info somehow makes Barbera cool.
I believe the Wikipedia page is where this “myth” was started. The entry says that “Barbera is believed to have originated in the hills of Monferrato in central Piemonte, Italy where it has been known from the thirteenth century.”
It’s true that Barbera is believed to have originated in Monferrato (see my post on Barbera’s Spiritual Homeland). But it’s unlikely that the grapes they grew back in the Middle Ages had a genetic resemblance to the wine we know today. In fact, the earliest mentions of Barbera (as we know it today) come from the 18th century.
Yet, across the internets, uninformed writers tout it as “older than Cabernet Sauvignon!” (even though I fail to see why that’s significant).
Unfortunately, the two best anglophone resources about Barbera that you can find online are both behind paywalls.
The very best is the Google Play version of Ian D’Agata’s Native Grapes of Italy (a reference work that I consult regularly and that I highly recommend to you). Also excellent is the Barbera entry on JancisRobinson.com. You can’t see that page without being a subscriber, although you can see this free page in the “learn grape varieties” section of the wonderful site.
Unfortunately, the Jancis Robinson page is the unwitting source of one of the biggest misconceptions about Barbera. We’ll take that one on in our next post. Stay tuned and buckle your seats!