Producer: Cantina Terre del Barolo
Country Hierarchy: Piedmont [Piemonte], Italy
Food Suggestion: Lamb
Wine Style: Red – Savory and Classic
Alcohol Content: 14 – 14.5%
Awards: Mundus Vini, 2016: Silver
Barolo is a traditional hillside village in the rolling hills of Piedmont, northwestern Italy. The vineyards and cantine (wineries) there have long been famous for producing some of Italy’s very finest red wines – predominantly from the region’s signature grape variety, Nebbiolo. Fragrant, tannic Barolo wine is so revered that it was one of just three wines awarded DOCG status on the day that the classification was introduced in July 1980 (the other two were Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano).
The Barolo vineyard zone covers the parishes of Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Barolo itself, and also spreads over into parts of Monforte d’Alba, Novello, La Morra, Verduno, Grinzane Cavour, Diano d’Alba, Cherasco and Roddi. The soils and mesoclimates vary slightly between these communes, creating subtle differences between the wines produced from their vineyards (although it must be remembered that the skills and preferences of the individual winemakers also has significant influence over these differences).
Barolo vineyards, late September
In La Morra and Barolo the soil contains a high concentration of limestone-rich Tortonian marl. The more aromatic, fruitier styles of Barolo typically come from these soil types; La Morra is considered to produce the most perfumed and graceful Barolos, while those from Barolo tend to be a little more complex, and broader-textured. (© Copyright, Wine-Searcher.com)
In Castiglione-Falleto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte, the vineyards are planted on looser and less fertile, Helvetian soils, which include both sandstone and limestone. This leads to a brick-colored wine which is more intense, bigger in structure and requires a longer time to age. Serralunga d’Alba is well structured, long lived and the most tannic of the five, while Castiglione-Falleto is renowned for its full-bodied, rich nature and good balance and aromas. Monforte D’Alba offers rich, concentrated characteristics and a serious intensity.
Despite the differences between the wines from these various terroirs, they all retain the key qualities which define the classic Barolo style; the famous “tar and roses” aroma, a bright ruby color (which fades to garnet over time), firm tannins, elevated acidity, and relatively high alcohol.
To earn the name Barolo, the wines must undergo at least 38 months’ aging prior to commercial release, of which 18 must be spent in barrel (the remainder in bottle). For the added designation of riserva, the total aging time increases to 62 months. As the tannins soften over time, the complexity shows through with hints of earth, truffles and dark chocolate.
Classic Barolos have traditionally required at least ten years cellaring to tame their tannins. Today, however, some producers are moving towards more “international” styles, with reduced fermentation times (meaning less extraction of color or tannin from the must), and the use of new French barriques in place of the traditional large wooden casks. This has resulted in a fruitier and more accessible style which is approachable at a much earlier stage in its life. Many believe this modernization detracts too severely from the classic character of Barolo. Some go so far as to say it makes the wines unrecognizable as Barolo. The ongoing debate between Barolo’s modernists and traditionalist has become known as the “Barolo wars”.
There are various Barolo vineyards which have achieved a sort of informal “cru” status, based on the official, structured model used in Burgundy. Esteemed winemaker Renato Ratti played a significant role in this, and created a map outlining the various crus: Cannubi, Sarmazza, Brunate, Cerequio, Rocche, Monprivato, Villero, Lazzarito, Vigna Rionda, Bussia, Ginestra and Santo Stefano di Perno.
To the northeast of Barolo, just the other side of Alba, are the vineyards which produce another stellar Nebbiolo wine, Barbaresco.
Nebbiolo is the grape variety behind the top-quality red wines of Piedmont, northwestern Italy, the most notable of which are Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo wines are distinguished by their strong tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent – often described as “tar and roses”. A less obvious characteristic, visible only over time, is their tendency to lose color. Within just a few years of vintage, most Nebbiolo wines begin fading from deep, violet-tinged ruby to a beautiful brick orange.
Nebbiolo is the quintessential Piedmontese wine grape – the dominant variety in five of the region’s DOCGs and numerous DOCs (see Italian Wine Labels). Even its name evokes the region’s foothills on cool autumn mornings, when the valleys and vineyards lie hidden under a ghostly blanket of nebbia (fog). The name is very apt for this late-ripening variety, which is harvested later in the year than Piedmont’s other key varieties (Barbera and particularly Dolcetto), in foggy, wintry weather conditions.
Powerful, intense Barolo is the most famous and prestigious Nebbiolo-based wine, but it is increasingly rivaled by the slightly more elegant and perfumed wines from Barbaresco to the northeast, which rose to prominence in the late 20th Century.
Wines from just outside the borders of Barolo and Barbaresco may be classified as LangheNebbiolo, as may wines from young vines or less favored plots within these two famous appellations. The high-quality red wines of Roero, just across the Tanaro river from Barolo, are further affordable alternatives to Barolo and Barbaresco. Here, Nebbiolo’s austerity and tannins was often softened with a splash of Barolo Bianco – a local nickname for white Arneis – though the practice, while still legal, is rare nowadays. Historically many vineyards here contained a mix of both varieties. Nebbiolo d’Alba is a third option for value; the zone covers much of the territory of Roero but extends across the Tanaro south of Alba to Diana d’Alba.
While the majority of the most prestigious wines across these parts of Piedmont are made entirely from Nebbiolo, some blends do exist at various price levels, but mainly classified as IGT Piemonte. Likely partners include Barbera – like La Spinetta’s Pin Monferrato Rosso – and the Bordeaux varieties.
Sixty miles (100km) northeast of Roero, Nebbiolo is the dominant variety in the wines of Ghemme and Gattinara, and a cluster of nearby villages along the regional border with Lombardy. The variety has even spread across this border and up into the dramatic Alpine scenery of the Valtellina. Here it goes by the name Chiavennasca, and is used to produce both dry red wines (lighter than those from Piedmont but just as alluringly perfumed) and the powerful, Amarone-like Sforzato di Valtellina.
Sensitivity to terroir is one of Nebbiolo’s trump cards, but also its downfall. While Riesling and Pinot Noir are grown in respectable volumes in many wine regions around the world, Nebbiolo is not. It is famously picky about where it grows, requiring good drainage and a long, bright growing season. In Piedmont, it is one of the first varieties to flower and the last to ripen, making it very susceptible to poor weather conditions in spring and autumn.
Fortunately, given the foggy conditions in which it ripens, most strains of Nebbiolo demonstrate a good resistance to rot and mildew. Unfortunately, the vine showed little resistance to the root-destroying phylloxera mite when it arrived in Europe from the Americas in the 1860s. When it came to replanting Piedmontese vineyards, the higher-yielding Barbera became the region’s preferred variety.
Despite its fussiness in the vineyard, Nebbiolo’s irresistible allure has led it to become a niche variety in pretty much every one of the “New World” wine nations. It is now grown in small quantities by just a few wineries in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Synonyms include: Spanna, Picoutener, Chiavennasca.
Food matches for Nebbiolo include:
- Herb-crusted roast lamb rack
- Smoked duck with wild mushrooms
- Fresh spinach linguine with white truffle shavings
(sources : wine-searcher)