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Barolo : the King of Italian wines

Barolo: "The King of wines, the wine of Kings". Discover the secrets of Barolo and the region of Piedmont, known for its white truffle and its vast landscapes.

To obtain the full article with images in pdf format, please click here

The history of Barolo


Until the middle of the 19th century, wines produced ...


Barolo : the King of Italian wines

Barolo: "The King of wines, the wine of Kings". Discover the secrets of Barolo and the region of Piedmont, known for its white truffle and its vast landscapes.

To obtain the full article with images in pdf format, please click here

The history of Barolo


Until the middle of the 19th century, wines produced in the Barolo area were rather mild. The climate and vigor of the winters prevented the fermentations from being pushed to the end, leaving residual sugar behind. In the 1830s, at the instigation of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour and Giulia Colbert Falletti, the last Marquise of Barolo, great efforts were made with the help of external advisers to raise the quality of the wines produced.

With its great qualities, the Barolo quickly became Piedmont's ambassador in all the European Royal Courts. It became "the King of wines, the wine of Kings".

In the middle of the 20th century, the production was dominated by the big traders who bought grapes and wine in the area and assembled them to make a rather common wine. The small owners then began to produce and bottle wines from fragmented harvests. This approach resulted in a referencing and classification of the various vineyards and plots in the region. This classification was the result of a long process that lasted several decades. Today, the "Consortio di Tutella Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani" is responsible for the management and development of appellations in the Langhe region.

Geography and appellations of Barolo

The Barolo area is located in the Langhe hills between the Alps and the Apennines. The name Langhe, seems to come from a term of Celtic origin which means "tongue of land" referring to the shape and layout of the various hills and deep valleys of the region.

The Barolo is produced in the 11 towns of Barolo, La Morra, Monforte, Serralunga d'Alba, Castiglione Falletto, Novello, Grinzane Cavour, Verduno, Diano d'Alba, Cherasco and Roddi.

To obtain the Barolo DOCG appellation, the maximum yield per hectare is 56 hectolitres, strictly from the Nebbiolo grape variety, and the wine must have a minimum alcohol content of 13 °. The ageing in wood must last at least 2 years and at least one year in bottle. For the Riserva versions, the ageing must last at least 5 years in total, including 3 years in wood.

The sale of bottled wine can only be done from January 1st after the 4th year of the harvest, and the sixth year for the Riserva.

 

Varietal Nebbiolo

The name Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word Nebbia which means fog, simply because the Nebbiolo is harvested relatively late, when the first fogs of autumn appear.

The Nebbiolo requires a good southern exposure and good soil, clay-limestone type. The vine buds early (mid-April) and matures later than most other varieties, around mid-October. For a proper ripening of the grapes, an altitude between 200 and 450 m above sea level and significant temperature fluctuations between day and night are an advantage.

Nebbiolo produces powerful wines, tannic, rich in alcohol and with good acidity. It has all the characteristics to produce wines with a strong ageing potential.

Important differences exist between the Barolos coming from various soils. Simply put, there are two main types of soil on either side of the road from Alba to Barolo.

  • The first type (limestone marl) is relatively compact, with cooler and more fertile soils, which characterize the villages of Verduno, La Morra, Barolo and Novello, producing relatively fine wines, fruity and aromatic, which are more supple than their neighbors on the opposite side;
  • The second type (sandstone and clay soils) is less compact, with poorer and less fertile soils, which characterize the villages of Montforte d'Alba and Serralunga d'Alba, producing structured and intense wines, which age more slowly.
  • The vineyard of Castiglione Falletto, for its part, is a hybrid because it combines the characteristics of these two soils.

Modern School and Traditional School: the Barolo War


In the 80s, the global trend for more fruity, less tannic wines, accessible at a younger age, prompted a group of producers to revise their winemaking method.

The two big "schools" can be distinguished: "traditional" and "modern".

The traditional school can be summarized as follows:

  • A maceration of several weeks, under wood in large truncated tanks, or in concrete, with frequent cap punching and pressing
  • Only large containers (no stainless steel)
  • No temperature control
  • Long ageing in big oak casks from Slavonia


The modern school, which has shaken up habits, adapted to the market of the 80s which favours fruity wines, dark, less tannic and drinkable at a younger age. Its approach:

  • Shorter maceration: from 2 to 14 days, in stainless steel vats
  • Control of fermentation temperatures
  • Automatic and frequent cap punching to maximize colour extraction and minimize hard tannin extraction.
  • Aged in barrels (about 225 l.) rather than in casks (about 1000 l.) with a large proportion of new wood.


Today, many producers are adopting a more moderate approach, returning to the traditional school, whilst modernizing it. They represent the link between tradition and modernity, trying to take the best of each method in order to produce the most advanced and personalized wines possible, while leaving room for the soil and its expression, especially the ageing.

What to eat with Barolo wine?

To be enjoyed obviously with a beef with Barolo sauce or a mushroom risotto. Just PERFECT! 

Our producers of Barolo wine:

Cascina del Monastero : and its absolutely fantastic Barolo from the parcels Bricco Rocca, Bricco Luciani and Perno (village)
Pio Cesare : The Barolo Pio Cesare is elaborated with the classic "formula" used by the old Barolo families to produce a wine that embraces and combines each of the unique characteristics of the different vineyards and terroirs of the Barolo region

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