Barbera is the Rodney Dangerfield of varietals: a hearty grape that has trouble getting respect, even though it's one of the most widely planted red grapes in Italy, along with Sangiovese. Why no respect? Because the majority of it is used for blending the ordinary jug-style wines that are an Italian staple (and often cheaper than bottled water). It makes a deeply colored, medium- to full-bodied wine with a profusion of tarry, berry-like fruit and spice. It also has unusually high acidity for a big red wine, which makes it a versatile beverage for a wide range of foods you wouldn't normally associate with red wine. Yes, it typically lacks complexity and finesse, but a new trend is developing to create oak-aged Barberas of the Supertuscan variety that are suitable for aging. Barbera is also planted heavily in California's Central Valley (via Italian immigrants of yesteryear), though you're not likely to see it on a label, since it's almost exclusively used as a filler for blended jug wines. A few wineries in Amador County and the Central Coast produce respectable Barberas, but the best hail from classic Italian appellations such as Barbera d'Asti and Barbera d'Alba.