Barbera vs Barbera

California Barbera better than Italian Barbera
Amador County VS Barbera D’Asti

California Barbera or Italian Barbera?

A face-off between California Barbera and Italian Barbera. Which one will the Vintage Wine Tasters prefer? Over the last two weeks. the nine members of the Vintage Wine Tasters purchased one or more Barbera wines from California, Barbera D’Alba or Barbera D’Asti. Most of the wines were under $20, but several we tried were well above that mark. We had our usual Zoom meeting and each member took a turn discussing and critiquing the Barbera wines. Here are the wines we can recommend for you to try. Barbera wines are essential wines for anyone who loves drinking red wines.

California Barbera Wines

Most of the Barbera wines in California come from the Sierra Foothills and, in particular, Amador County. According to winemaker Scott Harvey, the Amador area is an even better climate than the famous Italian Piedmont region, where the most notable Italian Barbera wines are made. “I’m convinced, and it is rapidly becoming known, that Amador County is the best wine-growing region in the world for Barbera – and the proof is in the high-quality wine that flows out of here, season after season.”

Recommended California Barbera Wines

  • 2017 Bella Grace Amador County – A beautiful and complex Barbera with rich flavors (plum and cherry), and a tantalizing finish. James Suckling gives it 90 Points. At the Bella Grace winery, the price is $33. At Total Wine, $19.34 if you mix six wines. Joe – 90 Pts.
  • 2018 Portalupi Shakeridge Ranch – Shakeridge Ranch is run by world-famous grower Anne Kramer. Price is $48 from the Portalupi Website and Vintage Taster Jim says, “It is worth the splurge.” 91 Pts.
  • 2017 Borjon Reposado – Rich-tasting Barbera with lots of fruit-forward delights, long-lasting finish. 91 Points from Vintage Taster Mike. $25 at the winery, $18.44 from Total Wine in the Sacramento area.
  • 2018 Sobon Estate – this red had an amazing bouquet (jammy and long-lasting) and a very pleasant palate feel. $17 at Total Wine and at the winery.
  • 2018 Lava Cap – this one is from El Dorado County – previously reviewed 2017 vintage. A beauty for $16 at Total Wine. Joe 90 Pts.
  • 2014 Saviah Walla Walla – one of the few Barbera wines from Walla Walla; a delicious and steak-worthy wine.

Italian Barbera Wines

Barbera d asti, barbera d alba

Barbera D’Alba and Barbera D’Asti are the mainstay wines of most wine drinkers of the Piedmont wine region of Italy. Barbera is a great food wine and is generally affordable. Both wines take a back seat to the famous and very expensive Barbaresco and Barolo wines. Barbera is a much lighter wine, with acidity that brings out the best in tomato-based pasta and pizza dishes. Lighter meat dishes are also a treat with Barbera D’Alba and Barbera D’Asti. Here is a handy chart to learn more about the Barbera grape of Italy.

Recommended Barbera D’Asti and Barbera D’Alba wines

  • 2018 Renato Ratti Barbera D’Asti – a medium-bodied wine loaded with cherry flavors, a beautiful finish. Excellent pizza wine. $16 Total Wine. Joe 89 Pts.
  • 2018 Vietti “Tre Vigne” Barbera D’Asti – a wonderful example of the savory and moderate balance of this grape. 90 Points from Parker. $17 at Weimax Wines in Burlingame.
  • 2018 Rocca Felice Barbera D’Alba – light and pleasant, good with Costco Steelhead.

Final thoughts

The Vintage Wine Tasters overwhelmingly chose the California Barbera wines over their Italian counterparts. The main reason, the fruit-driven components of the Barbera wines. Perhaps our palates are getting a little old, and we need something with more “oomph” to jolt our taste buds. Many of these California Barbera wines are affordable and available in many wine shops and stores.


  1. Greetings, Joe.
    Great call on the Barbera program at Saviah Cellars in Walla Walla. Our panel loved the 2013 Dugger Creek Vineyard.
    (FYI, there’s a typo in your reference to Saivah. I’m sure Team Funk will want to find and share your love for their 2014).

  2. Very good tasting with a wide variety of flavor profiles and body. All were quite food friendly.

  3. The preference for CA barbera over the Italians is not surprising. Out here on the west coast we’ve been conditioned to prefer bigger, fruitier wines regardless of the grape. (Cabs are a good example of this IMO.) I’ve tasted the Bella Grace, Sobon and Lava Cap (these wineries are about an hour drive from my house). My preference in CA barbera is the Jeff Runquist wine. The bottle is pictured above, tall with the big R. Runquist also makes a single vineyard barbera that is quite good. Both can be found at the Total Wine store in Folsom, CA. Finally, thanks for the review of barbera. I hope the volume produced and consumed continues to rise as it will drive the quality up and the price down.

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