Culture: Fruity, Aromatic and Acidic: 7 of Our Favorite Barberas | Wine Enthusiast
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Fruity, Aromatic and Acidic: 7 of Our Favorite Barberas

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Barbera’s fruit-forward aromatics and high yields make this a popular grape worldwide, particularly in Italy’s Piedmont region, the grape’s spiritual home.  

“Barbera is a go-to grape for many Italians,” says Jeff Porter, Wine Enthusiast writer at large and Italian wine reviewer. “And depending on if you find it from Nizza, Asti, Alba or Oltrepò Pavese, the wine takes on unique traits from each region—showing how terroir-specific it can be.”

“Overall, the key traits of Italian Barbera are fresh and vibrant fruit notes (lots of cherry), high acidity and low tannins. It is a great wine to grab,” says Porter. But the grape also thrives in warm climates all over the world, including Australia, Argentina and California.  

California plantings of Barbera are relatively small with much of it concentrated in the Sierra Foothills—a place where many Italian immigrants settled during the Gold Rush days, planting some of the state’s first vines,” says Stacy Briscoe, Wine Enthusiast‘s senior print editor and California wine reviewer.

“The state’s warm, Mediterranean climate allows for ripe fruit expressions (think plump black plum and juicy boysenberry) and mature, plush tannic structure,” she explains. “But because of the Foothill’s high elevation, wines from the region also maintain a refreshing acidic edge, keeping these fuller-bodied expressions light on their feet and aiding in ageability.” 

Barbera Wines from California and Italy to Drink Now

Elvio Cogno 2020 Pre-Phylloxera (Barbera d’Alba)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Planted in almost entirely sand, this own-rooted vineyard with some vines over 120 years old is a singular expression of Barbera. Elegant aromas of wild rose and fresh bay leaf mixed with cranberry, sour cherry and underbrush are just some of the notes you will discover in this complex wine. The palate is refined and well-balanced with fresh youthful red fruits, fresh flowers and fine tannins driving the wine home. Drink Now–2035. —Jeff Porter

$74.99 Millesima USA

Michele Chiarlo 2020 Le Orme (Barbera d’Asti)

Bella Grace Reserve Barbera 2020 (Amador County)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Ezio T. is a producer that takes no shortcuts. This richly perfumed Barbera from the hills of Asti has aromas of black cherries and spiced plums mixed with dried floral notes, herbs and shitake mushrooms. The palate is lush and rich with more tart fruit notes evolving into black tea, freshly turned earth and savory spices. —Stacy Briscoe

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Castello di Amorosa 2019 Rancho Victoria Barbera (Sierra Foothills)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Scarpa is a historic and traditional estate that no matter the era, sticks to its core values of tradition. This Barbera highlights the key characteristics of one of Italy’s great grapes. The nose is this perfect combination of red, blue and black fruit notes mixed with a touch of clove and savory dried herbs, like bay leaf. The palate carries on the same flavors of the nose with very bright acidity that makes the mouth water. This is “old-school” good! —J.P.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Ezio T. 2019 Terra del Noce (Barbera d’Asti Superiore)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Vietti continues to achieve year in and year out. The 2020 “Tre Vigne” Barbera continues that streak with a wine that begins with all bass notes. Deep and dark aromas of black cherry, roasted plums, candied violets and sweet spices. The wine is juicy and lush on the palate with gobs of blackberries and a touch of dried lavender and savory spice. The wine finishes with a brightness needed to keep the wine fresh. Best Buy —J.P.


Terra d’Oro 2020 Barbera (Amador County)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Robust fruit makes this wine shine. Enjoy ripe aromas and flavors of black plum, boysenberry, blackberry and black cherry, with complementary notes of chocolate, vanilla, nutmeg, violets, tobacco and wet stone. A medium level of soft, mature tannins kindly coat the cheeks, while excellent acid structure adds a line of freshness. The finish is a lingering integration of all components. Best Buy. —S.B.

$20 One Stop Wine Shop

Robert Renzoni 2018 Barbera (California)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Dark berry, purple flowers and peppery spices make for a pleasantly sharp nose on this bottling from the Temecula-based producer. Ample tension frames the sip, which is loaded with leather, bay, white pepper and dark berry flavors, leading into a vanilla-kissed finish. —Matt Kettmann 

$45 Wine-Searcher


What Is Barbera ? 

Barbera is a dark-skinned grape. If you like wine with high acidity and fruit forwardness, then you will definitely want to pick up a bottle of Barbera.  

“Barbera is like the kid in high school that everyone likes, and they are good at everything, too,” says Porter. “The wine can range from dark purple to light red, depending on where it is grown. The aromatics are always fruit forward and loaded with cherries. Barbera is naturally high in acidity, making it bright and fresh on the palate, and tends to have low tannins, so the fruit and vibrancy shine through.” 

Is Barbera a Red or White Wine? 

Barbera makes red wines or rosés.  

Is Barbera Wine Sweet? 

“Barbera is not sweet, but it is fruity,” says Porter. If the wine is young, it often has “loads of fruit aromas and flavors that are tempered with some fresh herbal and floral notes.” 

Barbera can also benefit from time in new oak and the resulting bottles will still be fruity but with added notes of baking spice and vanilla.  

What Food Does Barbera Pair Best With? 

When asked about one of her favorite Barbera wine pairings, Briscoe immediately responded “pizza!” However, if pizza (sadly) isn’t on the menu, not to worry.  

“Barbera has a wide range of dishes it likes to pair with, depending on the style,” says Porter, who recommends pairing lighter Barbera with salmon and tuna. And you can’t go wrong with a bottle of this wine with pasta and red sauce. Barbera can even hold its own with ribs.  

“If you love sticky ribs with a bit of spice,” says Porter. “Barbera plays nicely with the touch of hit and sweetness due to its bright acidity.” 

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All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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