Looking for a complete guide on Barolo wine before you buy one? You’ve come to the right place!
Elegant and age-worthy, Barolo is Italy’s most sought after Nebbiolo wine. It’s a dry red wine with a dramatic history and is said to be the most powerful expression of the Nebbiolo grape!
What makes Barolo so unique? How does it taste? What are the best Barolo wines?
In this article, discover all about this Italian wine - from the colorful history of Barolo, and its rich taste, to the best Barolo wines to get hold of in 2020. Also discover the easiest way to buy this fine wine!
This Article Contains
- All About Barolo Wine
- How is Barolo Wine Made?
- Barolo Wine Taste and Characteristics
- What is the Difference between Barolo and Barbaresco wine?
- Food Pairings with Barolo
- Best Barolo Wines to Buy in 2020 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
- 2010 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
- 1990 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy
- 1989 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Falletto Riserva - Falletto Vigna Le Rocche' Barolo DOCG, Italy
- 2010 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Monprivato Ca d'Morissio, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
- 2014 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Le Rocche di Castiglione Falletto', Barolo DOCG, Italy
- 2012 Cappellano Otin Fiorin Piè Franco - Michet, Barolo DOCG, Italy
- 2016 Bartolo Mascarello Artist Label, Barolo DOCG, Italy
- 2013 Luciano Sandrone 'Vite Talin', Barolo DOCG, Italy
- 2010 Poderi Aldo Conterno Granbussia, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
- 2007 Vietti Villero, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
All About Barolo Wine
Barolo wine comes from the Barolo DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), located in the northern Piedmont region (South of Alba) in Italy.
Here’s everything you need to know about this magnificent wine.
A Brief History of Barolo
Before the 1800s, Barolo was a sweet cask-only wine full of fruity flavors.
How did the sweet Barolo wine evolve into a dry wine?
In the mid-1800s, the Count of Cavour took the help of Louis Oudart, a French wine maker from Champagne, to modernize his family’s wine estate. They carried out complete fermentation of the must of Nebbiolo grapes making the wine extremely dry.
Around the same time, Giulietta Falletti, Marchioness of Barolo, took guidance from Louis Oudart for her estate in Serralunga valley and Barolo village, to produce a Bordeaux-style wine.
The wine was so fine that it managed to attract the attention of King Carlo Alberto di Savoia and thus, it came to be called the ‘King of Wines’.
The Barolo War
During the 1970s and 1980s, Barolo winemakers were divided into two groups - giving rise to the Barolo Wars.
- The first were modernists or rebels. They used roto fermenters (a vessel that ferments grapes artificially) to speed up the winemaking process and aged the wine in a new French oak cask. The resulting wine was less tannic and could age faster.
- On the other hand, the traditionalists (wine producers who stuck to old techniques) didn’t consider the new wines as true Barolos! For them, producing Barolo had to be a slow and steady process. Their technique involved a maceration of 15-30 days, after which the wine was aged in oak barrels for years.
There was no definite conclusion to this war.
Today, you’d find that both styles are equally popular - the modern Barolo with its spicy nuances and traditional ones with strong tannin and aromas!
Also read: 10 vivacious Sparkling Wine bottles to pop open in 2020!
The Terroir and Climate of Barolo
Barolo DOCG has 11 communes, including
- Castiglione Falletto
- Serralunga d’Alba
- Diano d’Alba
- Grinzane Cavour
- La Morra
- Monforte d’Alba
Located in the Langhe hills, these communes experience a continental type of climate. The Tanaro River and its tributaries influence the cool temperature of the region.
During the harvest season, rains and mildew affect the Barolo vineyards. In springtime, the winemaker has to worry about the hail that may damage the crop.
The Langhe hills have different soil types. The Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba regions have compact, sandstone-based soils, and Barolo and La Morra have calcareous marl soils - perfect for the growth of Nebbiolo grape variety!
The alkalinity in the soil helps balance the high acidity of the Nebbiolo grape.
Also read: The best way to build a Wine Cellar to preserve your wine collection!
The Wine Grape - Nebbiolo
The grape behind fine red Barolo wines, Nebbiolo, is known for its strong tannins, high acidity, and intense floral aromas.
Nebbiolo buds the earliest while it is one of the last varieties to ripen. That’s why Barolo winemakers are one of the last ones to start the winemaking process in the region.
Piedmont (Piemonte), located in Northern Italy, has some of the most well-known Nebbiolo DOC and DOCG wine regions, including:
- Aosta Valley
- Nebbiolo d’Alba
How is Barolo Wine Made?
These 100% Nebbiolo wines are produced under strict DOCG regulations.
Following the vinification, Barolo wines are aged in wood for 18 months. It is aged for another three years in bottles before being released.
Several Barolo producers make single vineyard bottlings and have gained an informal cru status. Some of them are Cannubi, Brunate, Rocche, Bussia, Ginestra, and Santo Stefano di Perno.
Barolo Wine Labels
On a Barolo DOCG wine bottle, you may find one of these two words printed - Riserva or Vigna.
What do they mean?
- Riserva wines those that are cellared for at least five years before they’re released.
- Vigna stands for wines that come from a single vineyard.
Barolo Wine Taste and Characteristics
Sip a Barolo in the tasting room, and you’ll notice chocolate, tar, roses, mint, dried fruit, and eucalyptus notes! It is also full-bodied with strong tannins, high acidity, and a garnet red color.
However, Nebbiolo loses color as it ages. That’s why the wine turns brick orange as it matures.
Also read: How many calories are in your glass of wine
Now, the two Nebbiolos, Barolo and Barbaresco, are often compared to each other.
What is the Difference between Barolo and Barbaresco wine?
Since Nebbiolo is a terroir sensitive grape, the wines it makes in Barolo and the neighboring Barbaresco wine region are subtly different.
The calcareous marl soil of Barolo creates Nebbiolos that are high in tannins and acidity. The continental climate makes the grapes and the wines fruitier. On the other hand, Barbaresco has limestone-rich soils with a milder climate when compared to Barolo.
You’ll find that Barbarescos are elegant and approachable, while Barolo wines are usually strong and intense.
Also, since Barbaresco wine has fewer tannins than the wines from Barolo appellation, and thus, it doesn’t age as long as Barolos.
Now let’s look at the best dishes to pair your favorite Barolo with?
Food Pairings with Barolo Wine
The dry, full-bodied, and tannic Barolo wines are best paired with high protein dishes (like beef and veal) to bind the tannins. Avoid soft foods like fish as the wine will overwhelm the palate with its intense flavor. Barolo also pairs well with white truffle.
Before serving your wine, let it rest in a decanter to open up the tannins.
Want to know the best Barolos to buy for your wine cellar?
Best Barolo Wines to Buy in 2020 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
Here are some of the most brilliant wines from the Barolo region.
1. 2010 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
The 2010 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino comes from the Giacomo Conterno winery, located outside the Monforte region. It is a ruby red wine with balanced flavors and bright acidity.
The nose of this Piedmontese wine is dominated by floral aromas with hints of plums, stone, smoke, licorice, and black chocolate. The fine tannins make the wine smooth on the palate. You also get ripe fruit flavors with notes of soil and savory spices.
Price of 2010 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy: $1,620+
2. 1990 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy
A brilliant Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region, the 1990 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo has developed smoky flavors with aging. The wine hasn’t lost its color.
This Italian wine gives off smoky aromas with hints of beef, roses, and sweet black fruits. On the palate, firm tannins give it a thick and bold structure. The wine will reach its peak within the next 4 to 5 years.
Price of 1990 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: $900+
3. 1989 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Falletto Riserva - Falletto Vigna Le Rocche' Barolo DOCG, Italy
A savory and captivating one by Bruno Giacosa, this Italian wine showcases the finesse of a Nebbiolo grape.
Mineral notes and dark plums drive the palate with smokey afternotes. You’ll also get hints of prunes and spices. The tannins are still firm and the wine needs to age till 2030 to reach its peak.
Price of 1989 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Falletto Riserva - Falletto Vigna Le Rocche' Barolo DOCG, Italy: $1,850+
4. 2010 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Monprivato Ca d'Morissio, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
The 2010 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Monprivato has a high acidity that leaves a freshness on the palate. The tannins are firm but don't overwhelm the palate.
A little less floral than other wines from the Barolo zone, this vintage has notes of mushrooms, cloves, spice, and tar. The wine has a lasting flavor dominated by dark fruit flavors. It can age for 10 more years.
Price of 2010 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Monprivato Ca d'Morissio, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy: $795+
5. 2014 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Le Rocche di Castiglione Falletto', Barolo DOCG, Italy
A garnet red wine, the 2014 Falletto di Bruno is a great wine for aging.
With a very intense and complex nose, you get scents of berries, jam, roses, violets, humus, and spice. The palate is just as complex with a rounded body and lasting taste.
Price of 2014 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa 'Le Rocche di Castiglione Falletto', Barolo DOCG, Italy: $415+
6. 2012 Cappellano Otin Fiorin Piè Franco - Michet, Barolo DOCG, Italy
A ruby red wine with garnet hues, the 2012 vintage by Cappellano shows great aging potential.
It is a robust, well-structured wine with smooth tannins. Rich and dense on the nose, the dominant aromas include licorice, chocolate, and black pepper.
Price of 2012 Cappellano Otin Fiorin Piè Franco - Michet, Barolo DOCG, Italy: $640+
7. 2016 Bartolo Mascarello Artist Label, Barolo DOCG, Italy
Another Nebbiolo wine from the Barolo zone, the 2016 Bartolo Mascarello showcases the fine taste and rich finesse of the grape variety.
It showcases a wide range of flavors, including wild berry, licorice, ash, rusted iron, and graphite. The fine tannins give it a silky smooth finish on the palate. The wine can age beautifully for 20+ years.
Price of 2016 Bartolo Mascarello Artist Label, Barolo DOCG, Italy: $725+
8. 2013 Luciano Sandrone 'Vite Talin', Barolo DOCG, Italy
A dry Barolo red wine by Luciano Sandrone, Vite Talin is a well-structured, full-bodied one.
With an intense aroma, the wine showcases classic Nebbiolo flavors of rose, tar, licorice, and dark fruits like black cherry. The firm but smooth tannins give this wine a good aging potential.
Price of 2013 Luciano Sandrone 'Vite Talin', Barolo DOCG, Italy: $570+
9. 2010 Poderi Aldo Conterno Granbussia, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
Poderi Aldo Conterno, a producer from Monforte d’Alba, cellars the wine for around 8 years before it is released.
Aromas of cherry and leather dominate the nose with hints of blackberries, ripe plums, sandalwood, and herbs. On the palate, dense tannins and cherry flavors give it a long and lasting finish.
Price of 2010 Poderi Aldo Conterno Granbussia, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy: $705+
10. 2007 Vietti Villero, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy
The 2007 Vietti Villero opens to fragrances of dark red fruit, spices, tobacco, and smoke. You also get hints of rose petals, mint, and red berries. The firm tannins give it a powerful presence on the palate - perfect to be paired with truffles!
Price of 2007 Vietti Villero, Barolo Riserva DOCG, Italy: $640+
Do All Barolo Wines Age Well?
Yes. Barolo wine has great aging potential due to the firm tannins and high acidity of the Nebbiolo grape.
Before release, the Barolo wine is aged for 3 years. In a cellar, you can age a Barolo for at least 10 years.
A Barolo wine from a good winery like Giuseppe Rinaldi can easily age up to 30 years.
So, how about getting a Barolo wine for your collection?
Here’s how to go about it:
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