In the pecking order of Piedmont wines, Barbera is a firm second in importance in the famed region in northwest Italy. While Nebbiolo reigns supreme with its beguiling Barolos and Barbarescos, the Barbera grape produces refreshing, higher-acid, everyday wines that can be enjoyed relatively young with a variety of foods.
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This is an earthy wine from the Alba region of Piedmont with lively acidity and soft, dusty tannins that frame a core of red fruit, especially sour cherry. As it breathes, some blueberry emerges, as does a subtle cinnamon note that evokes memories of Red Hots candies.
It’s a wine, to be blunt, that could take on a culinary Mack truck and pairs perfectly with meat and pasta dishes, like a sausage and tomato ragu tossed with penne and blanketed with grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes.
The grapes from Bovio’s Il Ciotto vineyard are farmed organically and are fermented with native yeasts. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks, which maintains its fresh quality and makes it a good food companion.
In the 8th Edition of their “World Atlas of Wine,” Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson describe Barbera as “once despised as too common to inspire respect” but now Piedmont’s “second most glamorous grape.”
In reality, Barbera’s modern reputation falls somewhere in between. Piedmont’s most planted variety doesn’t have the “glamor” of its Nebbiolo-based cousins. But with better vineyard management and winemaking in recent decades, it can produce delicious and versatile workhorse wines like this $18 standout.