I tasted through a number of affordable Barberas and Dolcettos recently. Here are four under-$20 Barberas from the '05 and '06 vintages that I thought offered mighty good value for money. 2005 was an odd year, with a lot of rain, but early-ripening Dolcetto and Barbera fared better on the whole than Nebbiolo. 2006 was better—still some sporadic rain in September, but not so much that it wrecked the crop. Neither is a transcendent year, but good producers had enough to work with to make some very good wines.
2006 Prunotto Barbera d'Asti Fiulot ($15)
Graceful and bursting with lively berry fruit, this youthful Barbera is popped into stainless steel tanks for a mere four months before it's bottled; hence the name, fiulot, which means "young man" in the Piedmontese dialect. Or so they tell me.
2006 Vietti Tre Vigne Barbera ($16)
The grapes for this herb-scented Barbera come from three separate vineyard sites—Monforte, Novello and Castiglione. Aging in stainless steel tanks rather than oak barrels keeps the fruit flavors bright and dominant.
2005 Coppo Camp du Rouss Barbera ($19)
Coppo got its start in the 1800s making Moscato d'Asti, oddly enough, but has since transformed into a Barbera specialist. This is modern-style Barbera, with its rich black cherry flavor and a fair amount of spiciness from 20 percent aging in new French oak barrels.
2005 Tenimenta Ca'Bianca Antè Barbera ($20)
Ca'Bianca is a youngster of a winery in Piedmontese terms—it was only founded fifty-odd years ago. But it seems to be achieving some recognition, and wines like this fragrant, lush red aren't going to hurt that at all.