Barbera, grown throughout Italy (and the rest of the world), is probably best known as the other grape from Piedmont. While it doesn't share the vaunted reputation of Nebbiolo (the other grape), it has its own merits as an affordable, approachable red. Barbera offers rich fruit flavors in a lighter bodied wine with soft, unobtrusive tannins, making it a great choice for spring and early summer drinking. The panel's top three wines hail from each of Piedmont's three Barbera regions.
2013 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore, Le Orme, $16
Opens with dusty brambleberry and creamy cherry aromas. Eight months aging in French oak adds structure and complexity. You get round, ripe cherry and strawberry fruit flavors with a food-friendly acid backbone, along with hints of anise, leather and cranberry. Smooth tannins color the long finish.
2015 Tenuta la Pergola Monferrato Rosso, $18
This one is a blend of 56 percent Barbera, half each from Asti and Monferrato, combined with equal parts of Dolcetto, Bonardo, Freisa and Croatina. The result is a wine with gorgeous floral red fruit aromas, mingled with mineral and anise. The palate is oh-so-smooth with silky, ripe berry balanced by tangy cherry. Touches of spice and toffee come through on the finish.
2014 Vietti Barbera d'Alba, Tre Vigne, $25
Offers up an exceptional array of aromas including blackberry, plum, caramel, anise, spice, violet and a touch of savory game. This is a well integrated wine with a rich core of cherry fruit surrounded by supple dark berry. Despite spending 16 months in oak, there's just a hint of vanilla and wood on the finish.