Barbera: Varietal of the Month

Marcy Gordon on Jan 28, 2020

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.

bottles of Barbera on the ground next to pink flowers

Here are capsule reviews of some Barbera examples you may find along the Wine Road.

bottle of Amphora barbera

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!

bottles of barbera form colagrossi, Peterson and Ramazzotti

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.

bottle of Portalupi Barbera

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.


Posted by Marcy Gordon

Marcy Gordon is a freelance wine and travel writer. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Wine Enthusiast, San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma Magazine, The California Travel Guide, and Forbes Travel Guide. In 2017 she was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. She is the co-host of the award winning Wine Road Podcast.

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