You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to enjoy a delicious bottle of Barbera d’Asti! (Elise Vandenburg)
American sommelier Elise Vandenberg has managed some of America’s top wine programs, including stints at Chez-Louie in Reno, Nevada and Estiatorio Milos in Las Vegas. She is also a Vinitaly International Academy Ambassador of Italian Wine, one of the trade’s most prestigious titles, and she lectures and leads guided tastings of Italian wine regularly across the U.S. She currently works for distributor Vin Sauvage, a premier boutique distributor in Las Vegas, one of America’s leading wine markets.
Elise, What was your first experience with Barbera d’Asti?
I remember discovering Barbera d’Asti years ago at a tasting of Italian wines. I was happy to encounter fresh, juicy fruit flavors, and the refreshing acidity of the wine surprised my palate in a very pleasant way.
What do you like about Barbera d’Asti as opposed to other top Italian grape varieties?
Barbera d’Asti delivers juicy and luscious fruit flavors coupled with refreshing acidity. I often tell clients and consumers that Barbera d’Asti is a high quality wine that can be enjoyed on any day at any time. You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to enjoy a delicious bottle of Barbera d’Asti!
Barbera is often called “the ultimate food wine,” thanks to its freshness, bright fruit flavors, and versatility. What’s your favorite traditional pairing and your favorite creative pairing?
Barbera d’Asti is so much fun to pair with food! Traditionally, Barbera d’Asti pairs extremely well with tomato-based sauces because the wine has enough acidity to stand up to the natural acidity found in tomatoes. I also enjoy pairing Barbera d’Asti with grilled meats and vegetables because the ripe, fresh fruit flavors in the wine enhance the smoky notes from grilling.
Are your clients familiar with Barbera d’Asti?
Yes, Barbera d’Asti is popular among wine lovers who frequent restaurants and retail shops. I think that consumers are more willing to choose and try Barbera d’Asti because they can pronounce the name! Many clients tell me, “I love Barbera d’Asti!”
Do your clients associate Barbera d’Asti with Piedmont? (If not, where do they think it comes from?)
Yes, clients do associate Barbera d’Asti with Piemonte. I always explain that Barbera is a grape and Asti is a place. Fortunately, due to other grapes from the region being associated with the Asti name, many consumers and clients understand that Barbera d’Asti comes from a particular place in northwestern Italy.
What’s your advice to Barbera d’Asti producers on how to reach American sommeliers and consumers?
Keep up the good work! In recent years, I have seen successful marketing campaigns highlighting Barbera d’Asti, including “My Name Is Barbera.” I have also attended educational seminars focusing on the wines of Barbera d’Asti. It’s always helpful to educate restaurant sommeliers with tastings and in-depth seminars, and I would encourage the producers to participate in more tastings and educational seminars. Public tastings and consumer events are another way to pair light educational components with introductory tastings to raise awareness among consumers.