Barbera is a purple skinned grape used to produce light bodied red wines in Piedmont, Italy as well as New world productions in Washington, California, and Australia. It generally thrives in cooler, moderate climate zones. The wines are medium to full bodied, dark ruby colored, with red berry and blackberry aromas and flavors. Exceptional examples include Barbera d'Asti, and Barbera d'Alba in Piedmont. When I introduce Barbera to a guest, I usually show it to someone who normally enjoys Pinot Noir. Barbera has a similar body, some similarity in fruit characteristics, but is frequently a little more tannic.
Barbera does not require oak ageing, or the oak ageing can be much more subtle an experience for the wine when employed. Using an unoaked Barbera is a really fun tool to show how red wines may retain acidity, and showcase more fruit aromatics when a winemaker elects to not manipulate.
I have seen Washington state and California producing much more Barbera in the past decade, and I saw it on vines throughout Oregon this spring. Especially producers that are showing other Italian grape varietals. Barbera is approachable to our domestic palette, it is frequently blended with a partner Italian varietal called Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo. It also makes a really lovely dry, peppery rosé. Barbera inspires two types of class for me, it is produced extensively in Argentina as well and a compare/contrast of new world vs old world makes a great class, or to show 3 new world styles, and how they differ. You could also choose an all Italy class to see how the grape shines in it's native soil and cooler climate.