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Lovers of Italian wine need to put Barbaresco high on their Italian bucket list! This charming small town is the hub for the D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. Queen of Italian red wines. This guide to Barbaresco for independent travelers will focus on what to do in Barbaresco, tips for tasting wine from Barbaresco wineries in Barbaresco without a tour, and how to visit Barbaresco without a tour.
If you want to be sure that you won’t be drinking and driving, you can pay for a private tour of the region’s vineyards. Tours to Barbaresco often include truffle hunts (a favorite activity in fall) and a great meal.
Barbaresco is often considered to be the Queen to Barolo’s King, however Barbaresco popularity continues to grow among critics. This strong red wine with complex notes is made from the Nebbiolo grape (the same that produces Barolo). Barbaresco dates back to 1894 when an expert on agriculture and soil purchased a farm in Barbaresco to cultivate and create this unique wine from grapes traditionally used for Barolo. It gained popularity and prestige in the post-war (World War II) period, however it’s still not as famous as other wines produced in France.
Barbaresco is aged for at least two years in oak barrels (that are often tracked for D.O.C.G production purposes). Unlike Barolo, it needs less time before it is ready to drink, which produces a softer tannin taste than you find in many Barolos. It’s still quite a strong red wine that has complex notes. The region for producing Barbaresco is much smaller than Barolo, but this is definitely for the benefit of visitors to Barbaresco.
Getting to Barbaresco independently*
If you don’t intend to drive, the closest city to Barbaresco with public transit is Alba. It is pretty easy to get to Alba by train from Turin or Milan, however from Alba, you’ll need to take a ~11km drive to Barbaresco either by bus (unfortunately with limited service) or taxi. Biking the hills of Piedmont is more of a challenge than many people realize…
If you are driving, Barbaresco is a beautiful short and hilly drive from Alba. You can easily follow the signs up towards the town, but I recommend parking along the hill into town rather than seeking a parking lot in town, which has limited parking. After going through town, you’ll end up making a loop back out of town, so it’s best to be decisive when it comes to parking unless you intend to circle endlessly around Barbaresco.
What to do in Barbaresco
To be honest, Barbaresco is still quite a sleepy town, which was definitely part of the charm for me. Although the weather was far from ideal during my visit, I can’t argue too much with holing up in Barbaresco’s one and only “wine church” to drink Barbaresco in Barbaresco until the rain abated!
Sample wine at Enoteca Regionale Barbaresco
One of visiting Barbaresco on our own had to be visiting the Enoteca Regionale of Barbaresco. This regional tasting room specializes in Barbaresco wines with knowledgeable staff who can tell you more about the varieties, makers, and wine. A visit is free although you’ll need to pay about three euros per glass (for a tasting). They accept all cards.
What I really liked about this Enoteca was that it was fairly easy to taste the difference between different makers and years to understand what makes a good Barbaresco worth it for critics. Unlike wineries, you’ll be able to sample wines from different makers here. (I personally prefer the softer tannins that come out after three years as it turns out, but you can discover this for yourself.)
Torre di Barbaresco
For panoramic views over Barbaresco (not seen on the way up!), head to the Torre di Barbaresco on a clear day. Unfortunately the famous Piedmont fog, which often rolls in during the mornings, can make it quite hard to see too far. If you’re experiencing fog, it’s best to skip this attraction.
Taste wine at the wineries and their respective shops
One of the highlights of Barbaresco had to be doing a cellar tour and tasting at one of the wineries. The most well-known makers are Gaja, Bruno Giacosa, and Produttori del Barbaresco. Needless to say, you’ll find many passionate makers who make a fantastic Barbaresco. I ended up at the award-winning Ca del Baio, which was a great experience. Click for more information on doing a wine tasting in Piedmont on your own.
Have a paired meal of Barbaresco with locally produced food
Many of the local restaurants have special events with tastings that are paired with meals, where it’s possible to try numerous wines with a blind tasting. It’s best to reach out to to the Enoteca Regionale about upcoming events to reserve your place at such exclusive events.
If you’re interested in a good pairing of Barbaresco and food, Campamac Osteria in Barbaresco came highly recommended for their Piedmontese food! For a quick tasting or a traditional meal, you can also stop by Koki Wine Bar. I stopped here for a coffee and snack, which was quite good. In nearby Tre Stelle (a Barbaresco producing city down the hill), you’ll find great food options for pizza and sit-down meals that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Tasting at the various wineries: What to know beforehand
Before I disappoint you, getting a tour of Gaja winery is pretty difficult. At the moment, you’ll need to donate a sum of money to charity in order to be considered for a tasting, however it’s best to contact them directly for more information. You’ll need to decide if it’s within your price range…
If you intend to visit a winery to do a tasting, you need to reserve ahead, typically by calling or emailing. This is especially true if you’ll be visiting Barbaresco in peak season, which is summer and fall. Many Barbaresco wineries are still family-run, so family members (who are often the ones giving tours!) generally need to plan carefully with timings. It definitely gives wine tasting in Piedmont a personal touch, but visiting Barbaresco independently means that you should think about your favorite Barbaresco producers prior to calling them for availability. I was able to get an appointment at Ca del Baio. You can click for more tips on how to do wine tastings in Piedmont independently here.
The Barbaresco region is actually quite small, but driving along its winding roads might take longer than you think. Similarly, GPS isn’t always so reliably. Barbaresco is produced in several towns in the Piedmont area, including Barbaresco, Neive (known for its impressive castle and cute town!), Tre Stelle, Treiso, and San Rocco Seno d’ Elvio. ( This microclimate also produces Dulcetto, a non-sweet red that is unfortunately fading in popularity that is worth trying!)