Barbera: An Italian Red Grape Varietal

The Grape

Barbera’s origins lie in northwest Italy’s Piedmont region. This red grape varietal is the third most planted grape in Italy. Grown worldwide, Barbera vineyards can also be found in California, Washington State, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa. 

Italy's Wine Regions
Italy’s Wine Regions Courtesy Wine Enthusiast

Ampelographers suspect the origin of Barbera dates as far back as the 7th century, much longer than the more familiar Cabernet Sauvignon recognized since the 17th century. (Ampelography is the field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines.)

In the 1800s, Italian winemakers emigrated and introduced Barbera grapevines to the United States.

The Wine

Historically, because it generally had lighter body and less concentration than the nobler Nebbiolo from the same region, Barbera was given a lesser status. Longer aged Nebbiolo was reserved for special occasions while younger and more readily available Barbera was used as a table wine and known as the ‘wine of the people’.

Naturally high in acidity and low in tannins, Barbera can be considered ripe, bright and tangy. It is presented both in blended wines and as a single varietal. While ‘Old World’ Barbera is a traditional Italian wine that’s highly acidic and quite tart, ‘New World’ Barbera wine tends to be full-bodied and more fruity.

Dolio Winery's Harmony
Dolio Winery’s Harmony is a blend of 50% Barbera and 50% Syrah.

Pair Barbera wines with rich dark meats, mushrooms, herbs, herbaceous cheeses like blue cheese, higher tannin foods like root vegetables & braised greens. The bright acidity in the wine will complement a rich fatty or high tannin dish.

Barbera ages well, though it may be difficult to find cellared Barbera, as it drinks so nicely as a young wine.

Dolio Winery’s Barbera

Italian red varietals are central to our winery so Barbera is a regular on our wine list. While not many acres are dedicated to this varietal in WA State, the quality of fruit we can acquire has been outstanding.

Our winemaker allows Barbera to spend ample time in barrels which builds tannins to complement Barbera’s natural acidity. The result is a bright ‘New World’ style wine with fruit notes of sour cherry, anise, fig and caramel.

Winemaker, Don Klase, with his first vintage of Barbera
Winemaker, Don Klase, with his first vintage of Barbera

As of this post, Dolio’s single vintage 2014 Barbera is available. Also on our wine list is the very popular Harmony blend of 50% Barbera and 50% Syrah which showcases the brightness of Barbera and deep finish of Syrah.

Some of our favorite surprise pairing items with Barbera include Blood Orange Truffles and Tiramisu.



Guide to Barbera Wine