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