Description 1 of 2

Barolo, a.k.a. “The king of wines, the wine of kings” is perhaps the most prestigious wine produced in Italy, in the Piedmont province. It’s based on the Nebbiolo grape, which is notoriously difficult to grow. In fact, the earliest Barolos (documented as far back as the 13th century) were produced in a sweeter style, with more residual sugar due to the winemakers’ lack of control over the cooler regional temperatures. The fermentation process would halt too early under the frigid conditions, and the lack of proper yeasts would bring up the alcohol and sugar content. But for centuries, everyone seemed to be OK with this. 

The name most likely derives from the Celts, who dwelled in the region in ancient times and referred to it as “bas reul,” low-lying place. In the Medieval age it was called Villa Barogly, and then by 1600, Barrolo or Barollo. Eventually the single “r” and “l” spelling came about, probably to avoid further argument. Speaking of arguments, this region, like much of Italy, went through several disputed ownerships through the centuries, from the Romans, the Lombards and the Saracen invaders. Some time during the rule of King Berengarius I in the 9th and 10th centuries, the foundation of Barolo’s famous castello was constructed. During the 13th century, the Falletti family took it over and brought it to its formal glory. 
 
But it was not just the castle that was brought to glory by the Fallettis. In 1843, Count Camillo Benso of Cavour, the mayor of Grinzane, invited celebrated French oenologist Louis Odart to come to Grinzane’s cellars and try to make improvements on his wines. Cavour’s good friend, Giulia Vittorina Colbert de Maulévrier, better known as the Marchesa Falletti, then asked Odart over to castello Barolo to see if he could do anything for her wines. It was Odart who identified the temperature control problem, and suggested using different yeasts. Velato! Modern day dry Barolo was born and the wines became a huge success, thanks to the marketing efforts of the Marchesa Falletti and her protoge Pietro Emilio Abbona. 
 
Beginning in 1908, Barolo production became limited to the communes Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba with the subzones Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, Novello, Cherasco, Roddi and Verduno. Different microclimates figure into the growing conditions and characteristics of the Barolos from each zone. Castiglione Falletto is often the most rounded and approachable, though still structured for aging potential. La Morra wines are considered softer and the most aromatic while those from commune Barolo are more robust and layered with earthiness. Monforte d’Alba is considered the most intense and concentrated. Some of the wines, such as Serralunga d’Alba are more tannic upon release and require significant cellar aging before the wine shows its true potential. In general, a good rule of thumb for Barolos is a prolongued period of cellar aging, sometimes 10 or more years before consumption, and most of them can last for many decades. 
 
Barolo became a DOC in 1966, and elevated to DOCG in 1980. To be labeled as Barolo, the wine must be aged a minimum of 3 years, with two required in oak. Riservas are aged 5 years before release. The aging is required to begin starting January 1st after harvest. The minimum allowable ABV is 13%, but most are over 14%. 
 
Nebbiolo grown in the Barolo zones tends to ripen later than in neighboring Barbaresco. This translates to more tannic wines with a heavier weight. In recent years, certain producers have taken to altering the aging requirements and adding blends of other grapes such as Arneis and Barbera to soften the wines and allow them to be more drinkable upon early release. Hence a struggle between traditionalists and modernists known as the “Barolo Wars.”
 
In addition, certain Barolo vineyards have been elevated to the status known as Italian “Crus” similar to those in Burgundy, started with the efforts of wine-maker Renato Ratti. A layout of these locations has come to be known as the “Ratti Map.” Cannubi, Sarmazza, Brunate, Rocche, Monprivato, Lazzarito and Ginestra are all in this ranking, to name a few. ~Amanda Schuster
 
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

Barolo is arguably Italy's most important wine. A 100% varietal pure wine made with the indigenous Nebbiolo grape, it shares certain traits with France's great Burgundy. Both wine are made from fickle grapes, Nebbiolo arguably more fickle since Pinot Noir, the grape of Burgundy, has been successfully cultivated around the globe while Nebbiolo remains a success within a small swath of hilly terrain, in the north of Italy. In addition the finest examples age into beguilingly ethereal, perfumed masterpieces. Nebbiolo has and retains more tannin than Pinot Noir but the similarities between the two wines are striking. It is said all wine lovers paths lead to either Barolo or Burgundy and that may very well be true. – Description from Gregory Dal Piaz

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