Barolo is arguably the most well-known and prestigious wine region of Italy.
It produces wines that are recognised to be among the finest in Italy and the world.
Here is our guide to this amazing wine.
How to pronounce it?
Where is Barolo?
The Barolo wine region is situated in the Piedmont region, in the North-West of Italy near the city of Turin.
Barolo is a DOCG, a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This is the highest level of classification for wines in Italy. DOCG governs the geographical zone where the grapes are produced, but not only. It also dictates the grapes you can use, how the wines are made, how and how long the wines must be aged, and more.
It is the highest level of wine in Italy.
What are the main grape varieties of Barolo?
OK, so let’s now move on to the grape variety planted in Barolo. There, it is quite simple, as there is only one grape used: Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo is a thin skin grape variety that has a high acidity and high tannin content.
The Nebbiolo grape is often compared to Pinot Noir.
This is not only because of the colour of the light couloured wines it produces. It’s very much because it is such a hard grape to grow.
Nebbiolo is a very late ripening grape variety.
This means that you always have the risk of Autumn rainfall and a more diluted wine. The terroir has great influence on Nebbiolo, this is why, there are only very few places outside Piedmont that Nebbiolo grows.
What is Barolo like what does it taste like?
Barolo wine is considered by many to be similar to Red Burgundy.
This is of course because of the many parallels between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo.
Barolo, tends to be light coloured, just like Pinot Noir, but it is more brick coloured, and quite bright.
But Barolo wine is tannic, and very acidic. This gives the fantastic wines ageing potential. The best wines can age over 25 years.
The main aromas found in Barolos are rose petal, smoke, violets, tar, and cherry.
With age, more complex aromas develop and you will find notes of undergrowth, liquorice, leather and chocolate.
Barolo and wood
The traditional method of making Barolo was to have a very long vinification process. The wines would then age, in “botte”, which are casks of many hundreds of litres.
The resulting wines were often very dry, with a super intense tannin structure. This meant they were unapproachable before many, many years.
In the 60s and 70s, a handful of wine producers starting producing “modern Barolo”. The wines were vinified for shorter periods and aged in small oak barrels.
This made the wine more drinkable in their youth, but also brought the wine new aromas and flavours.
It also created many arguments between growers of different styles. Which lead to a deep divide between the 2 sides.
Slowly though, things are changing.
When people talk of traditional Barolo, know you should expect a solid, rugged, tannic and sharp wine.
While if you hear of a modern Barolo, you should expect a more approachable, smoother, rounder wine that is nonetheless tannic and acidic.
The DOCG regulations require Barolo wines to be aged for 3 years and 2 months, of which half has to be in wood. Barolo Riserva requires 5 years and 2 months minimum aging of which 18 months in wood.
Barolo Food Pairing
I am a fervent believer of the rule “local wine – local food” pairing.
And this applies nowhere better than in Piedmont. Piedmont has a cuisine that is quite different to any other Italian region. The food in the region isn’t geared towards pizzas and tomato-based pasta sauces but is more geared towards richer dishes such as risotto, cheese-rich dishes and stews. And of course, you can’t talk about Piemontese food and not mention truffle!! THE king of ingredient from the region.
These dishes call for strong, full bodied wines, and that’s how Barolos have developed overtime, to suit the food from the region.
As a result, I am going to suggest dishes that would traditionally be cooked in Piedmont:
- Braised beef
- Offal (kidneys, sweetbreads, etc)
- Truffle pasta
Five to try:
- Barolo, Borgogno
- Barolo Preve, Gianni Gagliardo
- Barolo Dagromis, Gaja
- Bruno Giacosa, Asili, Barbaresco Riserva
- Cordero di Montezemolo