Barbera, a variety native to Italy, can vary in flavor depending on where it’s grown; be it warm or cool climate, and how it is produced. Wines from cool climes tend to display brighter tart red fruits and warmer climes revel deeper dark berry fruit flavors. Typically Barbera is delightfully spicy with good acidity, and tends toward medium to light tannins with a smooth finish.
Here are capsule reviews of some Barbera examples you may find along the Wine Road.
Amphora 2014 Barbera, Clarksburg, Heringer Vineyard
If you’ve spent any time in Italy, or lived there like I have, you may notice that the Amphora Barbera captures an essential “Italian-ness” in its structure and flavor profile. Clean and brisk, yet deeply savory. The initial approach offers bright acidity, and then opens beautifully into a plush mouthful of rich earthy tones and notes of smoky mushroom and leather. Medium tannins carry to a long luxurious finish that would pair exceptionally well with a hearty beef stew or even Pasta alla Norma made with eggplant.
Colagrossi 2017 Barbera Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
From Aunt Mary to Uncle Giuseppe, this crowd-pleasing Barbera will satisfy even the most persnickety of palates. The Colagrossi Barbera is full of dark red fruit and luscious blackberry with notes of licorice and Allspice. The long easy tannins are a like a big warm hug and perfect for a Sunday family meal of Spaghetti and Meatballs or Chicken Cacciatore. Saluti!
Peterson 2014 Barbera Tollini Vineyard, Mendocino
When my Italian grandfather liked a wine he used to say— “Questo bellissimo!” And I think he would certainly like this Barbera for it’s spicy richness and overall balance. From Tollini vineyard in Mendocino, the Peterson Barbera delivers a wonderful bright sour cherry flavor grounded with notes of Santa Rosa plum and a touch fennel. Satisfying full round mouth feel, with pleasant persistent tannins. Pair with something rich and meaty like Pappardelle with Duck Ragù or perhaps a Mushroom Risotto.
Portalupi 2016 Barbera, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador County
Hailing from the much-lauded Shake Ridge Ranch in Amador County, the Portalupi Barbera delivers on all the inherent expectations of a great vineyard. Rich, balanced and tremendously nuanced with lush aromas of blackberry jam and deep flavors of mulberry, raspberry. A distinct spicy note of lavender and anise floats along a river of supple tannins to the long and savoy finish. Share with friends over great conversation and pair with braised lamb shanks or sausage pizza.
Ramazzotti 2016 Barbera, Dry Creek Valley, Estate Grown
The Ramazzotti opens with aromas of cocoa and blackberry and a delightful hint of bright strawberry. Spicy and tart, the initial hit of acidity yields to a intriguing note of sweet black cherry on the mid palate as it develops slowly to it’s full showy potential with soft tannins and deep rich lasting flavor. Braised short ribs or a simple charcuterie plate of salami with creamy rich cheeses such as truffle sheep or goat cheese would make a fine pairing.