Trust me. I’m not a wine snob… but after living in Italy for a few years, I definitely know the difference between a good wine and a bad one. I’ve also come to understand when choosing a wine the regions are important (you will find the Italian you are with, generally will tell you their region of wine is the best!). So maybe… I am on my way to wine snobbery.
Upon first arriving in Italy, I definitely noticed alot of B’s in the names of wines. And of course, I knew that a Barolo must be good. Barolo is about an hour and a half drive from Milan (but this is Antonio driving…) in a northern region called Piedmont in the Langhe hills. It is about 40 km from Turin (Torino) and is surrounded by two mountain ranges: The Alps to the North and the Apennines to the South. I told Antonio, “I REALLY want to go to Barolo!”. So… we took a day trip. And now I am hooked. I could go back every weekend. And when my sister and brother-n-law visited, we took them.
What I discovered immediately when arriving to Barolo, was that I really do not know anything about this wine or it’s relatives. I have also learned that you need to understand the entire region and it is all quite complex. You also need to understand the history. I have sinced learned quite a bit and am continuously curious and wanting to learn more.
A few helpful hints:
Immediately, you will find “Nebbiolo, Barolo and Barbaresco” tastings together. For me this was 3 times as good because I have had Nebbiolo and Barbarescos numerous times in restaurants in Milan from waiters suggestions. What I didn’t understand was how they all go together.
Nebbiolo is the grape. It’s a dark bluish color with a greyish thin skin. It makes the wines Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Barolo, Gattinara and Ghemme. “Nebbia” is the Italian word “fog” which settles in regularly during harvest time in late October.
Barolo is known as the king of Italian wines. Often times referred to as one of Italy’s best wines. It generally has a strong and powerful taste and scent of tar and roses. It has a bright color that lightens over time. The alcohol content is high. It can paired with heavy meats and pastas. Keywords: rich, deeply concentrated, tobacco, chocolate, dried, fruit, licorice, eucalyptus, plum, herbs. It has high tannins and needs to be aged for quite awhile. This in itself can be discussed forever. Basically, a Barolo must be aged first two years in oak and then one in the bottle before it is sold as DOCG. In order to be sold as a reserve, it needs to be aged for 5 years three of those years in oak. This certifies a “Barolo”.
Once you buy the Barolo, there are many questions as to how long do you wait for it to age, open and drink. Originally, it has been said to wait 10-15 years before opening the bottle. For example, if you bought a bottle from the year 1995, then it wouldn’t be ready to drink until 2005. That’s alot of patience!!!! However, in the last years this has changed.
There are two types of Barolo vineyards/wineries.
Traditional: A traditional winery will tell you to wait 10-15 years. They will leave the wine in large old barrels for many years.
Modern: A modern winery will leave the wine in small french oak barrels. The fermentation period is different from the traditional.
So to answer the question when to open the bottle? Well it depends on the year, whether it’s traditional vs. modern, how long you plan on cantering it (opening it and letting it breathe), etc. It’s complicated!!
Barbaresco is known as the queen of Italian wines married to the king down the road (Barolo). It is lighter tasting, has less tannins and more feminine. A Barbaresco needs to be aged for two years and for it to be a reserve needs four years. Key words that come to mind: truffle, licorice, roses, tar, violet, earthy, strong dark fruit, hints of cherry, smoky with age. Although the wine is lighter than Barolo, it still needs to be paired with powerful foods: risottos, meats, cheese, pastas.
Nebbiolo. The nebbiolo is actually quite the secret. It does not have all the strict aging requiremnets and can be drank much younger. It has been compared to a Pinot Noir. The price is much less than a Barolo. It’s color is a brick orange color.
Keywords: roses, autumn, woods, smoke, violet, tar. Nebbiolo wines also need to be paired similarly with strong flavors meats, cheeses, truffles and pastas.
Heres a video that I found to be quite helpful abot the difference between Barolo and Barbaresco:
The first time Antonio and I drove out to Barolo we really were just taking a drive to see what the area was like. We decided to stop for lunch and really had no idea where to go. Antonio ran into a tabachi bar and asked a man for a suggestion of a place to eat. He referred us to a neighboring town Montforte d’ Alba. The drive is quite dreamy as it is quite hilly, with rolling fields of vineyards. Although a very famous region, it really does not have any hint of tourism very natural, quiet, and peaceful. Quite honestly, we NEVER would have found this or known about this restaurant as it is hidden up high in a borgo (an old cluster of buildings all connected with narrow alleys). Ristorante Moda Palazzo Martinengo website
This restaurant overlooks the rolling hills and vineyards and has a large outdoor patio. The building has been completely restored with a modern yet historic feel. It’s beautiful. We brought my sister and brother-n-law back with us.
We then took them to a winery, one of the oldest in Barolo. Here we were given a tour in English and were able to learn about the wine making process, both traditional and modern. We were able to taste Barolo, Nebbiolo and Barbaresco. Here we were also able to ship to America. www.marchesibarolo.com/en/
It’s also fun to walk around the Barolo center. There are many wine tasting shops available. We found a great one where you can sample a variety of Barolos in the back room. website
I definitely will be returning to Barolo many times and hope to learn and write more. There is also an annual truffle and wine festival in Alba every October that I will definitely be returning to. White Truffle and Barolo Wine Tasting Ahhhhh “La bella vita”.