Barolo – King of Italian Wines

Produced in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, Barolo is a wine created from the high tannin, thin-skinned and acidic Nebbiolo grape. It has historically been a wine with very high tannin content, meaning that it had to be aged for a decade or longer before it became appetizing enough to be enjoyed. Barolo has been undergoing a change, though.

Growing the Grapes

Barolo wine is widely known for its tar and rose aroma and its ability to age well, gaining a rusty red tint upon maturation. These qualities have to be carefully cultivated in the Nebbiolo grapes; they are only grown in suitable vineyards that have calcareous-clay soils and appropriate slope orientation. Nebbiolo can be reliably grown in Barolo (of course), Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and various areas of other communities.

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The Barolo Wars

Modernists have made Barolo more accessible, more fruity and sweet, in order to attract a larger range of palates. Modernists made changes, including using new, small French oak barrels, shorter periods of maceration (the process of letting the juice sit on the grape skins after it’s been extracted, to draw the tannins from the skin into the juice) and much shorter fermentation times. Some even use a few sweeter grapes in the mix to soften modern Barolo.

Traditionalists insist on very long periods of maceration, longer fermentation and aging in large Slovenian botti, a type of cask. Traditionalists believe the process must be carried out in a very specific way. This produces a very tannic wine that must be aged for a decade before it can be savored appropriately.

Which of these processes makes a better Barolo? Do they both qualify to be called Barolo wine? That may be a little difficult to decide, but both are worth your attention.