These notes are all on widely available Barbera and Dolcetto wines from well-known Piedmont winemakers who typically produce a comprehensive range of wines starting with various Barolo crus and continuing with Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo etc. Stylistically there is not a great deal of difference between the wines in each group but that doesn't mean that they all taste the same.
The smaller winemakers that we have visited in Piedmont and of whom we have written in-depth profiles, like La Colombera, Ca'del Bric, Rocco di Carpeneto and Crivelli, tend to produce wines that are quite different to these as well as to each other. There are many reasons for this, some of which are to do with more individualistic winemaking practices, but also because the wineries we visited mostly produce Barbera from the Monferrato or Tortona areas.
Although most pundits would describe Alba as the top location for Barbera in Piedmont, many of our preferred Barbera wines seem to come from the Monferrato DOC, including the Accornero Barbera in the tasting notes below. Much less famous than the Alba or Asti DOCS and with vineyard acreage not nearly as expensive, there are some very good values to be found in Monferrato Barbera.
Braida - Montebruna 2018 - Barbera d'Asti DOCG (15% alcohol)
(aged in large oak barrels for 12 months)
Braida always makes a fairly simple Barbera in an easy to drink style with restrained acidity and no hard edges. This is another quite soft example which is enjoyable without being complicated. A little overpriced at 14 euros.
La Spinetta - Ca' di Pian 2017 - Barbera d'Asti Superiore DOCG (14.5% alcohol)
(aged in large french oak barrels)
Mature, sweet dark fruit on the nose, particularly blackberry. Concentrated and quite luscious, this is a wine with immediate appeal. It's smooth and rich with very subdued acidity and at its peak at 4 years old. Fairly priced at 14.50 euros.
Massolino - Barbera d'Alba 2019 - DOC (14 % alcohol)
(stainless steel only)
Much more true to classic Barbera than some of the other similarly priced wines in this tasting. Good fruit and a nice streak of acidity but lacking a little personality perhaps. Nevertheless decent value at 12.50 euros.
Enzo Boglietti - Barbera d'Alba 2018 - DOC (14.5% alcohol)
(aged in both used barrels and stainless steel for 6 months)
This could be described as one of our 'house wines' in that we buy it most years. It's always one of the best value Barbera d'Alba wines and one of the cheapest of those whose producers are also high-end Barolo winemakers. The 2018 was particularly good with dark fruits on the nose and very well-balanced on the palate with everything in harmony. Very good value at 12 euros.
G.D. Vajra - Barbera d'Alba 2018 - DOC (15% alcohol)
(fermentation and aging in stainless steel)
Vajra has practised organic farming for 50 years now, focusing on biodiversity and the use of manual rather than mechanical labor in the vineyards so there may not be any healthier vineyards than his in the whole of Italy.
Very full on the nose with abundant dark fruit and spice. On the palate it's still quite vivacious and fresh tasting with flavors of black cherry to the fore. Remarkably restrained acidity for this grape variety but at the same time sufficiently juicy and vibrant. A well-balanced wine in every respect, the finish is long and persistent. On the second evening it was just as full and peppery so there is plenty of life left here. Good value at 14 euros for this quality.
Domenico Clerico - Trevigne 2017 - Barbera d'Alba DOC (14.5% alcohol)
(aged in large french oak barrels)
Quite full nose of black fruit and plenty of flavor with a core of acidity that keeps it fresh and ideal with food. A classic Barbera style that is showing well with four years of age and has no tannins to speak of. Good value at 14.50 euros.
Accornero - Giulin 2019 - Barbera del Monferrato DOCG (14.5% alcohol)
This could well be the best Barbera of this tasting.
Lots of cherry and plums on the nose this is a full, rich and very expressive wine that at the same time is extraordinarily well-balanced with just the right amount of acidity. A fabulous value at 11.50 euros, especially given that it also the cheapest in this tasting.
Dolcetto wines from Piedmont don't seem to get the attention they deserve, probably because of all the other more famous red wines that come out of this region but the quote from one of the best producers of just about everything from Piedmont, G.D Vajra, nicely encapsulates this grape variety: "If only people knew how good Dolcetto is, how easy to digest, human, they would drink it every day". That's our view too.
Cordero di Montezemolo - Dolcetto d'Alba 2019 - DOC (13% alcohol)
This is made in a very crowd pleasing style with ripe red fruits on the nose and quite a soft texture on the palate. Very subdued tannins for a Dolcetto and restrained acidity also. It's medium bodied and is a very pleasant wine though perhaps lacking a little personality. However 11 euros is an excellent price for a good reliable wine like this.
Pio Cesare - Dolcetto d'Alba 2019 - DOC (13.5% alcohol)
This was a disappointing wine. Very soft and quite boring, it was clearly made to offend no-one but there's nothing here to excite you either. Not worth 11 euros.
Prunotto - Dolcetto d'Alba 2019 - DOC (13.5% alcohol)
This is a very dark brooding wine with earthy black fruits and spices on the nose and a powerful grippy flavor with acidity to match the fruit. It feels like there's more to come here but it's already a lovely food wine and so well-balanced that it continues to drink very pleasantly after dinner. Very good value for 10 euros.
G.D Vajra - Dolcetto d'Alba 2019 - DOC (12.5% alcohol)
Very lively and vibrant, this grabs your attention straight away. There's plenty of juicy acidity and a little tannin also, that requires the right food pairing but there's also good fruit keeping everything balanced. Medium bodied with the potential for further improvement I think. Good value for 11 euros.
Sandrone - Dolcetto d'Alba 2019 - DOC (13% alcohol)
Very concentrated and still a little closed, this is a thick wine with dark fruits and a touch of licorice. In another couple of years this could be sensational if we only had another bottle or two. Good value for 11.50 euros.