Barbera: An Under-Appreciated Red Wine, At Its Best At Mount Salem Vineyards

When we think of classic Italian red grapes like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, we think of bold wines that take center stage – yet unfortunately, can only be paired with a hearty dish like charbroiled steak that can stand up to their big flavors.

However, there’s an Italian underdog that’s often forgotten – Barbera, a simple, charming wine often served as a house wine in Italian trattorias that goes well with anything from a steak to fresh pasta to pan-roasted chicken, as it flavors complement food, rather than overpower it.

This Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Mount Salem Vineyards, we’ll serve our own 2021 Barbera, which, in our opinion, is the most important yet underappreciated red wine grape that we have. Our followers agree. Although few were familiar with Barbera when we began serving it a decade ago, it’s a favorite today and has a loyal following.

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When we serve it this Saturday, we’ll also demonstrate its food-friendly nature by preparing dishes in our summer kitchen with ingredients sourced from the Hunterdon 579 Trail, a network of farms and other agricultural destinations along Hunterdon County Road 579.

Those dishes include chevre from Gorgeous Goat Dairy on crostini; risotto with lamb sausage from our neighbor, Mount Salem Farm; and stuffed and roasted pork shoulder from Blue Jingler Farm. In addition to sampling these foods, guests can enjoy the surrounding changing colors of fall and the autumn breeze.

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However, Barbera wasn’t always a wine worth spotlighting. Years ago, as bold, red Italian wines began to overpower the wine culture, winemakers decided to give the common Barbera a second chance. They gave it some love, both in the vineyards and the winery, by using good viticultural practices, thoughtful fermentations and serious aging in oak barrels to hopefully elevate it from a passable house wine.

And, they were right. The results speak for themselves – and we invite you to taste it for yourself this Saturday at our Pittstown farm.

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