Top 6 Barbera Wines

Get your hands on one of these fantastic Barberas recommended by GDP

 


Barbera elicits the most remarkable reactions from people. Those who are more accustomed to modern wines only recall the worst of the wine’s history. The thin, incredibly high acid examples seemed better suited for use in the garage as a solvent than for use near a dinner table.

On the other hand, many traditionalists seem fixated on moaning about the newer style of Barberas. These wines are softened through ripeness and rounded through oak aging, not to mention infused with distracting vanilla and toasty spice flavors.

The truth, as is normally the case, lies between these two extreme expressions of Barbera. As I see it, Barbera is a wonderfully versatile wine that is low in natural tannin and high in acid, making it ideal for use at the table. It is not the most intensely flavored wine, which is why so much effort has been expended on trying to amp it up. This creates the question of whether the wine really needs so much amping. In my opinion, the answer is no.

Lighter-bodied, fresh and fruity Barbera serves a purpose that is hard to satisfy with other grapes. It is the Beaujolais of Italy, much to Dolcetto’s chagrin. Ready for pizza yes, but also a roasted chicken, pork chops, or even Asian food. My favorite pairing is olive oil-laced grilled vegetables. Barbera is fun, flexible and affordable, a wine that more people should open their minds to. After all, many wines have shaken off their sometimes well earned reputations for excess. Perhaps it is now Barbera’s turn.

Barbera image via Shutterstock
2010 Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa Barbera d’Alba 13.5% $28

Smells a little gassy and a little grassy with candied plum and black raspberry notes gently emerging on the nose. Rather light and fresh in the mouth, this shows lovely crisp and finely textured tannins, balanced by assertive yet not sharp acidity. In the mouth, the flavors are on the subtle side, with some earth-backed cherry and raspberry fruit. A really fine, long finish shows cherry pit fruit, a light dusty mineral tone and a hint of dried lime peel on the finale. Very elegant and well balanced if subtle. 90pts

2010 La Casaccia Giuanin Barbera del Monferrato 13.5%  $14

Very perfumed on the nose with lovely suggestions of herb stems, candied flowers, ginseng and earth accenting the black currant fruit. Elegant in the mouth with lovely balance and fine richness to the fruit, which show early signs of damson plum and wild black cherry before revealing a little touch of roasted hazelnut on the mid-palate. This leads to more floral and ginseng-like accents on the back end. The finish shows lovely purity of fruit and a bright, zesty character. Lacks just a touch of complexity but is absolutely lovely. 89pts

2009 Coppo L’avvocata Barbera d’Asti 14% $14

Fresh and wonderfully textured in the mouth with cool flavors of raspberry and wild cherry with a hint of mulberry. The acidity here is bright and fresh but well integrated with the fruit. There are fine-grained tannins adding a little extra cut to the palate. The purity of the fruit here is lovely and the finish is long and very precise, with a strong mineral vein adding a nice, almost medicinal tone to the fruit. Excellent persistence and balance make this a winner. 88pts

2009 Vietti Tre Vigne Barbera d’Alba 14% $24

Nice, light mint and herb tones add some detail to the dusty, lightly smoky huckleberry fruit. Lovely acidity and brightness up front, this is appealing right off the bat. There is a lightness and elegance on the palate, yet this has great depth of flavor. The fruit turns aromatic and bright on the back end, picking up accent notes of tree bark, a hint of wood, some candied anise and Chinese five spice, all wrapped around the transparent black raspberry fruit. The finish is a touch short and shows a bit of heat but with good complexity and appealing balance. 88pts

2009 Boroli Quattro Fratelli Barbera d’Alba 13% $15

A bit herbal and stemmy on the nose but with attractive floral accents and a nice base of almost grapefruit red fruit. This is nicely done. Very clean and fresh with a lovely core of red apple skins, red plum and cranberry fruit, which shows a hint of fleshiness to help combat the juicy acidity here. The fruit gains hints of candied blackberry on the back end and a whisper of earthy tannin on the finish, rounding out a very fine wine. Almost feels a touch soft on the modest finish, but this has very broad appeal. 87pts

2009 Marchesi di Barolo Ruvei Barbera d’Alba 13.5% $17

Rather clean and fresh with mint-toned grape skins, dusted with a little cocoa powder on the nose. Bright and juicy in the mouth, this shows a lovely leading edge of ripe fruit roundness followed by juicy acidity and a nice interplay of simple fresh fruit, plums and raspberries. A hint of allspice adds a bit of detail. The finish is clean and brisk and shows good persistence to the fruit. Delicious in a light and easy style. 87pts

2008 Coppo Camp du Rouss Barbera d’Asti 13.5% $18

A bit dusty smelling on the nose with notes of steeped tea and roasted meat, accented by burnished cherry fruit topped with a fine suggestion of rose petal. On the palate, this is rich and smooth with a streak of acidity that lifts this up like a circus tent. The fruit is pure if a bit simple, but the texture here is the big draw. It is fluid yet with an almost imperceptible richness and wonderful vibrancy. There’s a little chocolate taste on the back end and then the finish turns mineral and slightly peppery with some mouth-grabbing tannins that set in late. Youthful but with solid potential. 87pts

2010 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Barbera Mendocino County 14.5% $20

Jammy and spicy on the nose with blackberry and cinnamon aromas and a little vanilla Pop Tart thing going on. Rich on entry and nicely fruited in the mouth, the flavors show plenty of ripeness but the texture is light and fresh with some fine-grained tannins adding a nice edge to the fruit. This is bold and juicy with good length to the fresh, fruity finish. This really tastes much fresher and lighter than the nose might lead you to believe. A great, long juicy plum skin finish. 87pts

2008 Tenimenti Ca’Bianca Chersi Barbera d’Asti Superiore 14% $30

Tight on the nose showing plum skin, light wood spice and vanilla tones, with a fairly intense floral top note. This is rather smooth on the palate and a touch heavy, though the acidity is nicely underpinning the wine. There’s an attractive lightness to the fruit in the mouth, which shows some Jolly Rancher grapiness before revealing a touch of black currant on the back end. Finishes with good length and freshness if simple flavors. A really nice effort that is polished and eminently drinkable without feeling overdone. 87pts

2009 Vietti Scarrone Barbera d’Alba 14.5% $40

Quite perfumed on the nose with a touch of sourness accenting the sweetly floral, slightly gamy top note that accents the core of sour black fruit and sweet oak. A bit low key in the mouth but showing admirable richness. There's plenty of acidity here but the tannins seem to have drained some of the fruit from the mid-palate. The tannins turn a bit splintery on the back end while the fruit does begin to reassert itself, showing off fresh plum skin, raspberry and creamy strawberry notes. The finish is short and tight with a flash of black coffee followed by acidity and wood spice. Should improve with age. 87pts

2010 Marziano Abbona Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba 14.5% $25

Slightly briary and richly fruited on the nose with blackberry, cocoa and oily wood combining nicely with a bit of a musky undertone. This is opulent in the mouth and slightly creamy, with smooth, polished cocoa-tinged tannins adding volume in the mouth. The fruit is a touch muddy here and the texture turns slightly pasty, but this does deliver plenty of plum skin, violet and mineral on the back end before turning darker, oaky and a bit matte on the finish. Powerful acids mark the finale. Not my preferred style. 86pts

2011 McManis Jamie Lynn Vineyard Barbera California 13.5% $10

Spicy, balsamic pine note on the nose, over a base of jammy raspberry fruit. This is light and bright in the mouth with really crisp, fresh acidity and a nice blend of gentle herbaceous floral notes. Fresh cran/raspberry fruit with a hint of toasty wood spice shows up on the back end. Simple and a bit easy, this shows nice freshness and lightness. 84pts

2011 Marchesi di Barolo Maria Barbera del Monferrato 13% $12

Smells buttery and spicy with hints of licorice and violets accenting the barely fermented fruit. This is light, fresh and carbonic with an easy, nouveau quality to the fruit. Good acidity and fresh red cherry fruit with a hint of orange oil add a bit of detail. Chill this a bit and drink it like a rosé. 84pts

2010 Bersano Costalunga Barbera d’Asti 13% $15

Very light on the nose with hints of sage, camphor and wildflowers accenting astringent lingonberry fruit. Smooth and easy on entry, this has a nice, fresh character to it with simple, slightly nutty flavors of cranberry and lingonberry. There’s nice underlying acid and a good focus to this. The fruit pops a bit on the back end before receding again through the modest finish. Easy to drink, easy to like, this is simple and very correct. 84pts

2009 Tenimenti Ca’Bianca Ante Barbera d’Asti Superiore 13.5% $17

Earthy and reduced on the nose with spicy, peppery licorice and herb stem aromas. A touch broad on entry then nicely transparent, this shows some nice sour cherry and tart raspberry fruit in the mouth with a bit of a creamy edge on the back end. Turns a bit dank and extracted on the moderately long finish. It’s texturally easy to drink but not very appealing right out of the bottle. Give it some air and it freshens up nicely. 84pts

2009 Cardella Barbera California 13.5% $17

Fairly intense on the nose with notes of candied watermelon, wood spice, grilled meat and chalk all laying over waxy coconut and cherry fruit. Nicely textured in the mouth with nice volume and richness even though there’s plenty of acidity here. The flavors are lovely, cherry-fruited with hints of dark strawberry seeds and wood spice adding accent notes. Then, the acidity adds a wash of watermelon to the modest finish, which does show a hint of wood tannin. Not that complex but a nice effort with fine balance and attractive flavors. Finishes hard and bitter. 83pts

2009 Kramer Vineyards Barbera Walla Walla Valley WA 14.2% $24

Low, dark-fruited cinnamon, herb and oily wood nose gains intensity with air, though the fruit resides in the dried plum and dried berry end of the spectrum. A bit disjointed with good acidity that is seemingly distinct from the lightly flavored but seemingly sweet notes of raspberry and cherry in the mouth. There are few tannins to speak of so this stays light in the mouth, though there is just not a lot going on here and the finish is quite short. 80pts

2009 Paolo Manzone Fiorenza Barbera d’Alba 13.5% $23

Seared cherry fruit, mint, hot rocks and very spicy raw wood greet the nose. This has blazing acidity and just enough fruit and flesh to keep it covered. There’s not a lot of depth of flavors, just some modest plum and red currant fruit, but it’s a likeable duo framed with some spicy oak and a hint of mint. Finishes with a bit of fruit and some stemmy, raw wood, but it’s short. 78pts

2007 Attilio Ghisolfi Maggiora Barbera d’Alba 14% $24


Plum backed up with some oak and plenty of volatility. With air, chocolate and tobacco emerge to add some complexity. A bit lean and tough on entry though there is plenty of fruit here. Nice, black grapey fruit touched with a little spice and something lactic going on in the mouth. Finishes short with good acidity, though slightly acidic, and softened wood tannins. Fairly smooth if a bit simple and volatile. 75pts

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Comments

  • Snooth User: thdawg
    86235 4

    Unti, a Dry Creek producer, makes a quite nice Barbera, which certainly deserves mention.

    Sep 11, 2012 at 1:14 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 214,131

    Totally true. Funny story, I met the Unti's in Barolo this past spring. I don't think we were drinking Barbera though! I've also enjoyed Barbera from Sebastiani, Renwood and Montevina in the past, it's a grape that is well suited to the warmth of California and I look forward to trying more domestic versions in the near future.

    Sep 11, 2012 at 1:29 PM


  • VJB in the Kenwood area of Sonoma also makes a very nice Barbera.

    Sep 11, 2012 at 3:58 PM


  • I agree 100% about VJB's Barbera. The former WSJ wine column listed it as one of it's top wines several years ago, and the quality has in no way gone down since.

    Sep 11, 2012 at 4:17 PM


  • Wholeheartedly agree that more people need to open their minds to Barbera. I ran a small blind tasting a few weeks ago, and everyone there was really pleased with the wines. Unfortunately, the local wine shop was sold out of Vietti, but you can check out the results of our tasting here: http://www.truthinjuice.com/ec/2012...

    Sep 11, 2012 at 4:58 PM


  • Christian Lazo in Paso Robles always has a good one. Longevity in Livermore has great Barbera!

    Sep 11, 2012 at 8:13 PM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,004

    How far off the mark, if at all, are our domestic west coast Barbera"s compared to Italian Barbera?
    I have only had one domestic barbera and it was from U'Vaggio and I thought it was ok,

    Sep 12, 2012 at 7:21 AM


  • I had the Terra d' Oro Barbera Monday night with a fresh tomato, garlic, onion, shrimp & basil pasta - excellent! I love Barbera's versatility.

    Sep 12, 2012 at 2:56 PM


  • Sunset Cellars (CA: Not remembering the appellation): $25: Scrumptious!

    Sep 13, 2012 at 10:10 PM


  • Snooth User: malcedor
    607608 49

    don't see how so many can discuss california barbera (or any cal-ital, for that matter) without mentioning palmina...

    Sep 15, 2012 at 2:06 AM


  • Snooth User: valexie03
    1490324 37

    I find Barbera very versatile. Every guest so far has been surprised by the excellent taste of this wine.

    Apr 15, 2014 at 11:27 AM


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