Bottle and glass of Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Barbera 2018

Since You Probably Won’t Be Going to Italy, Let Trader Joe’s Bring Italy to You

Fast facts:

  • 2018 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Barbera, Paso Robles, California ($7.99 @ Trader Joe’s, California)

I was supposed to be going to Italy this month on a wine business trip. Needless to say, that plan has been scrubbed.  So maybe I had an intense sub-conscious desire to make a connection to Europe.  Last week it was a German grape variety, and this week it’s one that is powerfully associated with Italy.  

In last week’s post we were discussing how American wine consumers are sometimes much less familiar with grapes that don’t crack the “top 5” best sellers.  In the U.S. that would be, in order:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Chardonnay
  3. Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
  4. Pinot Noir, and
  5. Sauvignon Blanc

Barbera is way, way down the list.  While Americans may not be especially familiar with this grape, it is no bit player in northern Italy where some 51,000 acres of countryside are planted to it. This places it in the top 5 in Italy by the way. It is also planted in Argentina, Australia, and as you can see in the photo below, California.  More specifically, the Paso Robles region. 

The region of Paso Robles from which this Barbera hails sees hot, sunny days, followed by cool evenings. These dramatic temperature shifts allow the fruit to ripen optimally, while the clay soils, rich in mineral and lime, help to maintain the fruit’s natural acidity.

The result is a wine that’s concentrated, yet vibrant and focused. 

Close up photo of the front label of Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Barbera 2018 Paso Robles
Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve wines can be hit or miss, this one was a hit.


If you’re a fan of muscular red wines with lots of structure (think, Cab) this wine may not be your thing.  While Barbera, which is medium to heavy bodied, does check some of the same boxes, it has low tannins and tends to be fruity and smooth. You could say it’s stylistically more like Merlot than CabSauv.   

The acidity in this wine complements many foods. Any meal with a tomato sauce is a perfect match with Barbera, one of the most food friendly wines. It would also make an excellent partner for grilled pork and barbecued meats.

Tasting Notes:

Deep ruby color with aromatics of raspberry and maraschino cherries. The palate is young and fruity with flavors of dark berries, rich dark chocolate, boysenberry, and flavors of Christmas spices. Nice velvety finish and a brisk acidity that balances the mouthful of fruit nicely.

It been a while since our last review of a TJ’s Petit Reserve wine. Click through if you’re curious about where Petit Reserve fits into the family of Trader Joe’s exclusive label/house brands.

Lastly, I recently came across some research out of Sonoma State University which shows the top drivers of purchase decisions by American wine consumers.  It found that the top three drivers of wine purchases were price (80%), brand (69%) and varietal (a distant third at 33%).  Stated differently, most wine consumers are brand loyal and driven predominantly by price.

What does that mean for the minds behind Vinopointer?  Well, we won’t be steering you to common everyday brands.  (Don’t look for reviews of  Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay or Meiomi Pinot Noir anytime soon.) But you can count on us to keep scouring the bins and shelves of Trader Joe’s and Costco to shine a light on wines that will expand your horizons, and that we believe are worthy of you parting with just a little bit of your wine budget.  

We see ourselves as champions of the obscure.  The undiscovered wines.  The esoteric grape varieties. Oh, and great prices.  We are fans of wines that are analogous to shelter dogs.  Of course, if you’ve been a reader of these posts for a while, you already know that. 

Stay healthy everyone, 



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