|Deep purple to ruby red
|Deep purple to ruby red
|Red and black fruits, cherry, plum
|Blackberry, violet, licorice
|Medium minus to medium
|Light to medium
|Medium plus to full
|Moderate to pronounced
|Moderate to pronounced
|Key Growing Regions
|Rich pasta dishes, roasted meats
|Antipasti, pasta, grilled meats
Two Italian red wines, Dolcetto and Barbera, grow in the same region of Northwestern Italy, but just how are they different?
Barbera is a red Italian wine with a lighter body, medium tannins, higher acid, deep color, and intense cherry and blackberries. Dolcetto, a deeper Italian red, has lower acid and medium tannins with violet and almond aromas. Both are excellent food wines.
Here’s what you need to know about the distinctions between Dolcetto and Barbera.
- Barbera Basics: The Friendly Companion
- Dolcetto Basics: Fresh and Fruity
- Wine Comparison: Dolcetto vs. Barbera
- Barbera vs Dolcetto: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature
- Serving Dolcetto and Barbera Comparison
- Which Is More Expensive, Barbera vs. Dolcetto?
- Which Is Better, Barbera or Dolcetto?
- Final Thoughts – Nebbiolo or Barbera?
- Thirsty for More?
Barbera Basics: The Friendly Companion
Believed to be from Lombardy, Italy, just west of Piedmont, Barbera presents has a light to medium body and a refreshing level of acidity. Barbera has bright red fruit flavors, predominantly cherry and blackberry, sometimes accompanied by gentle spice notes. The wine’s friendly nature makes it an excellent choice for a wide range of occasions.
Fun Wine Fact: Barbera is often referred to as the “wine of the people” due to its approachable nature and the fact that it doesn’t take years to mature in the cellar before it’s ready to drink. Here’s what you need to know about Barbera wines.
Dolcetto Basics: Fresh and Fruity
Also from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, Dolcetto makes medium to full-bodied red wines with medium tannin and dark fruit. Expect a bit of spice and savory qualities with pepper and chocolate, along with almond and violet.
Here’s a full post on what you need to know about Dolcetto wines.
Wine Comparison: Dolcetto vs. Barbera
Let’s dive into a side-by-side comparison of Barbera and Dolcetto.
Barbera Wine Profile
- Sweetness: Typically produced in a dry style, Barbera wines have minimal residual sugar.
- Alcohol: Barbera wines generally have a moderate alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 14.5% ABV. As with all wines, this can vary depending on the winemaking style, the region where the grapes are grown, and the specific vintage.
- Body: Barbera will have a light to medium body, depending on the vintage and winemaking style.
- Acid: Barbera has medium plus to high acid, higher than Dolcetto.
- Tannin: Expect your Barbera wine to have medium tannins that are approachable and perfect for pairing with foods.
- Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Barbera has bright red and black fruit aromas that are medium plus to pronounced.
- Flavors: Expect strawberry, cherry, blackberry, licorice, and subtle spice notes.
Dolcetto Wine Profile
- Sweetness: Dolcetto is typically dry, but you may find off-dry styles.
- Alcohol: Dolcetto wines typically have a medium alcohol content, similar to Barbera, ranging from around 12.5% to 14% ABV.
- Body: Known for its medium plus to full body, Dolcetto has more structure than most Barbera wines.
- Acid: Dolcetto has lower acid than Barbera, crafting wines with a rounder mouthfeel.
- Tannin: Dolcetto can have higher tannins, but most will be medium to medium minus.
- Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Dolcetto wines will be pronounced and exhibit dark fruit, like black cherries and plum, along with purple floral notes, and almond.
- Flavors: The flavor profile often includes dark fruit notes, spice, cocoa nib, violet, and almond.
Are Barbera and Dolcetto Similar?
Barbera and Dolcetto share medium alcohol and medium tannin levels. You may notice that they share black fruit flavors and aromas, but this will depend on the growing conditions. They both make excellent food wines.
What Is the Difference Between Dolcetto and Barbera?
Dolcetto will have softer acid and will be fuller bodied than Barbera.
Barbera vs Dolcetto: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature
- Barbera’s fruit-forward style and higher acid will pair well with classic Margherita pizza, grilled sausages with peppers and onions, and mushroom risotto.
- Dolcetto’s softer acid and almond notes make it a great wine for dark leafy green salads, lentil soups, and also pasta dishes.
Serving Dolcetto and Barbera Comparison
|Not necessary, but improves with aeration
|15-20 minutes if it’s closed
Both Dolcetto and Barbera are best served slightly chilled. Place them in the refrigerator for approximately 15-20 minutes before serving to reach the ideal temperature. Most Barbera wines can be enjoyed immediately after opening (decant fuller styles and aged bottles). Dolcetto can benefit from aeration if it seems closed. Give it a good swirl or let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
Helpful Wine Drinking Tip: Inexpensive, entry-level wines rarely benefit from decanting. Give them a good swirl in your glass to open them up, and then savor every sip!
Which Is More Expensive, Barbera vs. Dolcetto?
The price of a wine bottle depends on various factors. In general, Dolcetto is more expensive than Barbera.
Barbera Wine Price
- Entry-level Barbera: Under $10 USD
- Premium Barbera: $15-$20 USD
- Super-Premium Barbera: $30-$50 USD
Dolcetto Wine Price
- Everyday Dolcetto: $15-20 USD
- Premium Dolcetto: $25-$30 USD
- Super-Premium Dolcetto: $30 – $40 USD
Helpful Tip: If you’re curious about the pricing of wine bottles, here’s a full breakdown of how wine gets priced.
Which Is Better, Barbera or Dolcetto?
If you love easy-drinking red wines with bright red fruit, then Barbera is your match. If you want a layered red wine, that’s fuller bodied with black fruit and spicy or almond notes, then Dolcetto is for you.
Personal Tip: Barbera is usually the more approachable wine.
Final Thoughts – Nebbiolo or Barbera?
What I love about Italian wines is that they’re made for food. Both Dolcetto and Barbera are delicious options for classic Italian meals.
I recommend arranging a side-by-side tasting of these two wines if you haven’t done so already.
Grab two bottles of similarly priced Barbera and Dolcetto, and get a few friends together to experiment. Make sure you have some appetizers or finger foods, this is essential for these two wines (here are some finger food recommendations).
Thirsty for More?
If you’re passionate about boosting your wine knowledge, consider hosting your own blind wine tasting for beginners.
Check out these famous wine regions and their signature wine grapes.