You should consider that Barbera comes from Piedmont, one of Italy’s most liberal regions where “people” are known for their broad intellectual interests and cosmopolitan culture.
Over the course of the last couple of posts, we’ve looked at many of the myths about Barbera here and here and we’ve pointed out how many misconceptions there are about the grape variety throughout the wine writing world.
But of all the misinformation that’s still out there when it comes to Barbera, the one that really rubs me the wrong way is the often repeated but totally misplaced and misinformed adage that Barbera is the wine of the people.
Just Google it and you will see what I mean. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
1. As we have seen repeated in my research, Barbera was actually once (and still is) considered an “elite” wine, a “top” wine. Remember Giovanni Pascoli’s poem “A Ciapin”. Nebbiolo is currently Piedmont’s most lucrative grape. But it wasn’t always like that, as we have seen repeatedly. And even today, especially when it comes to Barbera d’Asti, there are scores of wines that land at high “premium” and “luxury” prices.
2. Who exactly are the “people”? Oh, man, this gets under my skin! When you say that Barbera is the wine of the people you’re basically saying that Barbera is the wine for people who can’t afford the best wine, it’s wine for people who don’t know what good wine is. You know: The “people” in quotes, citizens who don’t follow the snobby rules of the “elite,” the privileged who drink “good” wines. No, that’s not going to fly with me, especially when you consider that Barbera comes from Piedmont, one of Italy’s most liberal regions where “people” are known for their broad intellectual interests and cosmopolitan culture.
By saying that Barbera is the wine of the people, you unwittingly (or perhaps intentionally) divide wine lovers into two classes — one superior, one inferior. And anyone who’s likes Barbera as much as I do is my kinda people!
If it weren’t for Prohibition and the disruption of the commercial wine trade in California, we’d probably be drinking Barbera today instead of “Napa Valley Cab”