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Barolo Wine Through the Years

by Paul Ebeling

#wine #Italy #barolo

“I imagine Italian royalty of mid-19th Century enjoyed a glass of Barolo with a rich Agnolotti del Plin, Salute!— Paul Ebeling

“Barolo is known as the “the King of Wines and Wine of Kings.” –Neil T.H. Empson

Traditionally, Barolo is a slow and steady wine, sometimes taking more than 10 yrs to soften and become ready for consumption. Fast-forward a century after Oudart’s era to the 1970s and 1980s, and the worldwide market favors fruitier and less tannic wines that could be consumed at a younger age not an easy thing to do with the Nebbiolo grape’s high levels of acidity and tannins.

Naturally, there were those who wanted to develop a sweeter Barolo to please the market and those who wanted to stick to the tried-and-true process.

The 2 factions staunchly disagreed with each other, and this rift is dramatically known as “The Barolo Wars,” a battle of old school Vs new school, with proponents of the new approach termed as “modernists,” and those who retained the old faith were labeled “traditionalists.”

Then in Y 1980, Barolo was 1 of the first Italian wine regions to attain DOCG classification the highest possible in Italy along with Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino. 

Italy’s DOCG regulations require Barolo to be aged a minimum of 3 yrs and Riserva Barolo for 5yrs.

The Barolo DOCG encompasses 11 communes in the region.

The “Big Five”: Monforte d’Alba, La Mora, Castiglione Faletto, Serralunga d’Alba, and of course, Barolo have the advantage of altitude and soil, producing 90% of all Barolo, while the remaining 6; Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, Novello, Cherasco, Roddi, and Verduno round out the rest.

With a DOCG designation, one comes to expect a certain quality year after year. 

The beauty of wine is its reliance on nature: the soil, the rainfall levels, temperature, and amount of sunshine none of which can be controlled and all which play a critical role in how wines taste from 1 harvest to the next.

Depending on the terroir of the vineyard the Nebbiolo is grown in, the scent of the Barolo can vary widely, from chocolate, mint, strawberries, plum, and eucalyptus, with tar and rose being common notes. 

Barolos are typically robust, full-bodied wines with pronounced tannins and acidity. Their color varies from a ruby color when young, to a more brick or orange color as they age.

Because of its strong presence, this wine is often paired with foods of similar weight, such as beef, veal, and truffles.

When you match a robust wine with strong food, the wine’s tannins bind to the proteins of the food resulting in a softer flavor, as opposed to overwhelming a lighter dish such as fish.

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