Barbera d’Asti is one of the most famous wines from the Piedmont region of north-western Italy. It became a DOC in 1970 and was upgraded to its DOCG classification in 2008, adding to Piedmont's already impressive standing at this highest level of Italian wine classification. The Barbera d'Asti title covers the area around the town of Asti, and exclusively focuses on red wines made from Barbera. Softer and more approachable in its youth than the Nebbiolo used to make Piedmont's most prestigious wines, Barbera is a firm favorite among winemakers and consumers. It is also the region's most widely planted red-wine variety.
The Asti catchment area is located in the hilly areas of the Asti and Alessandria provinces in eastern Piedmont, where the region shares its borders with Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. The vineyards which produce Barbera d'Asti wine are typically situated on hilly terrain, ranging in altitude anywhere from 300ft to 1000ft (90m to 305m). They span a relatively large area which adjoins the catchment area of Barbera d’Alba to the north-east.
According to DOC regulations, any Barbera d'Asti wine must consist of at least 85% Barbera. The remaining 15% can comprise Freisa, Grignolino and Dolcetto. The bottles must not be released for sale before 1 March in the year after harvest, and must achieve a minimum final alcohol level of at least 11.5% alcohol by volume. There is also a superiore designation which requires a minimum of 12 months ageing, with at least six months of this time spent in barrel.
Barbera d'Asti is a particularly good ageing wine, with the potential to reward cellaring for up to eight years. At its best it is a rich, tangy, full-bodied wine characterized by an intense ruby-red color which graduates towards garnet red with age. It is a full-bodied wine whose flavors become more balanced and appealing as it matures.
In late 2000 the Barbera d'Asti DOC laws were revised to officially recognize and separate the sottozone (sub-zones) of Nizza, Tinella and Colli Astiani. These three sottozone are thought to produce Barbera d'Asti of particularly high quality, and in a style which reflects their respective terroirs.