The municipality of Barolo is the historical center of the region, where the village of the same name has given its name to the wine. It was in the middle of the 19th century that the French oenologist Louis Oudard in the awning of Barolo Giulietta Falletti’s cellars transformed the local Nebbiolo wine from sweet to dry. It quickly became a privileged wine in better circles and was nicknamed “the wine of kings and the king of wine”.
The pre-eminent fine wine province of Italy since Roman times was reinforced under the House of Savoy, which lorded it over Europe during the Middle Ages from their base in Turin. Piedmont’s fame increased too as this noble House secured their place in history as the driver for Italian Reunification in 1861.
Located in the north-west of the country with a continental climate, Piedmont is influenced culturally and climatically by the surrounding Alps and Ligurian Apennines. Piedmont’s most important fine wine region is south of Alba, incorporating Barolo.
Nebbiolo is the grape of Piedmont, and arguably the whole country. It is planted in only the most favorable sites and is the power behind Barolo.
Famous wine district
Barolo is Piedmont’s most famous wine district and forms the county’s southernmost part, with Alba as the provincial capital. The Barolo wine as we know it today has a history from the early 1800s. In the decades that followed, under the influence of French winemaking, new production methods were developed that led to a shift from the previously sweet Nebbiolo wines to today’s dry. It was not until the 20th century that wine became famous around Europe.
The need to protect the brand became increasingly relevant – first with the establishment of the Consorzio di Tutela del Barolo e del Barbaresco in 1934, then the DOC award in 1966, and finally the DOCG award. In 1980. The requirement dictates three years of storage, of which 2 in barrels (five for rice reserves) and at least 13% alcohol. They are not allowed to use the municipality names on the label.
The Nebbiolo Barolo, known as the king of Italy, sits at the top of the Italian wine hierarchy, along with Queen Barbaresco and Brunello from Tuscany. Nebbiolo is considered by many to be the world’s most complicated grape to grow. Few have succeeded outside Piedmont, so it is considered very local. Nebbiolo, on the one hand, has a generous aroma (like a burgundy) while at the same time having a firm structure (like a Bordeaux), intense tannins, and lots of acids. As a young person, it is, therefore, quite inaccessible with a simple aroma image (a little violet and currant, a lot of licorice). After ten years of storage, it unfolds with flowers, vegetable aromas, and pepper, and the licorice is replaced by tobacco, tar, and leather. The wine is thus robust, powerful, rich, and complex, and with its high tannin content, it can be extremely storable.
Although Nebbiolo is grown in all the municipalities shown on the map above, the five mentioned here account for 87% of the volume. Variations in soil and climate help to define local features, and the area also has in the last three decades undergone a classic dichotomy between traditionalists who swear by traditional production methods and storage in large bottled barrels on the one hand, and modernists on the other who by far to a greater extent scales to recent research and uses new oak barrels (barrique) for storage.
Renato Ratti started this process in the ’60s as a response to a very sluggish market with low prices for Nebbiolo wines. A scandal in 1986, when some producers mixed wood spirits in the wine with catastrophic consequences, also accelerated the process. Shorter maceration time, fermentation on stainless steel tanks, faster extraction from the grape skins, and shorter barrel storage on smaller Botti were Ratti’s contributions. The result was a more fruity and accessible Barolo. The barbarian guru Gaja followed up with a reduction in the vineyard yield and consistent storage on the barrique, first on his barbera and then on his Barbaresco.
The international wine world applauded, and the prices went crazy. Against this backdrop, some smaller Barolo producers such as Enrico Scavino, Roberto Voerzio, Domenico Clerico, Luciano Sandrone, and not least Elio Altare formed a school in Barolo and through the 80s and 90s further developed techniques and used modern equipment to adapt. The international wine taste. On the traditionalist wing, we had strong names such as Giacomo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa, Mauro Mascarello, and Giacomo Fenocchio.
The modernists ‘wines are characterized by slightly sweet aromas, barrel character and dark red color, while the traditionalists’ wines are dry, transparent, and more rustic.
Today, the picture has become more nuanced, and the parties have approached each other. The challenge is to make a wine with inviting fruit that is highlighted and not ruined by the barrel aging – one of the reasons why many people use a combination of barriques and traditional large Botti casks.
Regional and legal requirements for Barolo
Barolo can only be made from the Nebbiolo grape, and from the different varieties of the grape (Michet, Lampia and Rosé). The grape must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5 percent by volume, and the finished wine must hold a minimum of 13 percent. The wine can not be put up for sale until after months of storage, at the earliest after the first of January two years after the grapes are harvested, and it must be stored for at least 12 months in wooden barrels. After 48 months of storage, of which 24 in wooden barrels, the wine can be called «Riserva» or Barolo vintage. For Barolo DOCG, only a yield of 56 hectoliters per hectare (52 hl / ha after storage) is permitted.
A total of 11 municipalities have the right to produce Barolo. Among these, Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Monforte and Serralunga d’Alba are the most important.
Due to the soil (calcareous marl), the wines from La Morra and Barolo are known to be lighter, softer, more elegant, fruity, and aromatic than the wines from three other Barolo municipalities. The wines in the border areas between the two municipalities have many common features, but in general, it can be said that where La Morra’s wines are characterized by sophistication, Barolo’s wines are often full-bodied and with good structure.
The book “Italian wine” – a recommended encyclopedia for those who want to learn about the wine country Italy – describes the La Morra wines as the structurally “lightest” Barolo when comparing all 5 municipalities, and further says: “At the same time, the wines from here are the most seductive and plays on its delicate scents that often have elements of raspberries, raspberries, mushrooms, forest floor, mint, tobacco and sometimes truffles “. Can you wish for anything more?
The best vineyards (click on the picture for vineyard maps):
Cerequio, Brunate, and Rocche are the best (the first two extend a bit into Barolo).
Also note Arborina and La Serra, as well as Capalot, Conca, Casa Nere, Fossati, Gattera, Giachini, Manzoni, Monfaletto and Roggeri.
Barbera d’Alba is made from the second main grape in the district – barbera. The grape is the most cultivated in Piedmont, especially widespread in the southern part of the DOC districts Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti, and Barbera Monferrato (see Barbera d’Asti for a more detailed description of the latter two). Most important Barbera d’Alba manufacturers can be found on this page, but also see under Barbaresco.
Barbera produces wines with a lot of fruit acid and little tannin. From the 1970s, they also started experimenting with barrique storage, and the great qualitative breakthrough came in 1985 when Giacoma Bologna launched its barrique stored Bricco dell’Uccellone in 1982. This inspired several manufacturers to develop very high-quality barber ravines and where the barrels add to the wine. Tannic acid and sweetness enhance the fruit and give the wine a specific storage potential – although exceptionally more than 5-7 years.
There has been some discussion about who is the best – Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba. With today’s consistently high-quality level, this is a fruitless discussion. What we can see, however, is that in the Alba area, the best vineyards are used for Nebbiolo production (Barolo), while in the Asti district, the main grape is allowed to frolic in the south-facing hillsides. The book Italian Wine describes the difference as “Barbera d’Asti is generally easier to access and richer in finesse, whereas Barbera d’Alba generally has more depth and structure.”
Almost all Barolo producers also grow barbera, but I have only included those that are most interesting in the wine listings below. The same applies to standard Barolo without vineyard names that everyone makes. Therefore, it is not to boredom repeated under each producer except for good editions sold.
2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012 (light), 2011 (warm), 2010, 2008 (varying), 2007 (warm), 2006, 2005, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1982, 1978, 1971, 1970