Barolo takes its name from a small village of about 700 people in Langa. Currently, there are eleven communes in the production area of Barolo including Barolo, La Morra, Monforte, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglio Falletto, Novello, Grinzane Cavour. Verduno, Diano d’Alba, Cherasco, and Roddi. The movement to protect and regulate Barolo began in the late 18th century, but it was not until 1926 that the Consortium for the Defense of Barolo and Barbaresco was created to protect the wines. In 1966, Barolo was granted DOC status, followed by DOCG status in 1980.
Regulations for the vinification of Barolo starts with the grape and the vineyards. All Barolo must is made from 100% Nebbiolo. Vineyards producing the Nebbiolo grape must fall within one of the eleven communes and can only have 3,300 vines per acre, however, many producers limit this number even further to increase the quality of the grapes. Once the grapes have been picked and fermented the wine must be aged; for Barolo the wine must be aged for 38 months, 18 of which must be in wood, and for Barolo Riserva, the wine must be aged for 62 months, 18 of which must be in wood. Both wines are required to have a minimum of 12.5% alcohol content.
“Whether, a person prefers traditional or modern style Barolo most people can agree that Barolo is uniquely expressive of it’s terroir.”
Since the creation of the regulations wine makers have been involved in the “Barolo Wars” where so-called Traditionalists and Modernists have argued over the best way to produce Barolo. For the Traditionalist Barolo is made in large oak casks, and the resulting wine is very aromatic, generally lighter in color, and has firm tannins. Often these Barolos fair best with several years of cellaring after bottling. The Modernist lean towards to shorter maceration and the use of smaller French barrels to create a wine that is more fruit driven and ready to drink.
Whether a person prefers traditional or modern style Barolo, most people can agree that Barolo is uniquely expressive of its terroir. The wine has been called dark, rich, brooding, silky, fruity, firm or soft. Most Barolos will have notes of cherries, floral, oak and spices, but it is not uncommon to also have notes of leather, chocolate, coffee, and tobacco. As with all Italian wine Barolo is meant to pair with food and goes especially well with beef, lamb, game birds, and pasta with robust tomato sauces. Barolo is best when served in a large round wine glass at 65°F.
In Italy Barolo is king, and with the quality and craftsmanship of the wine being produced it is easy to see why. Whether you are wine novice or a wine expert Barolo is a wine that can be enjoyed by all. In an article written by Tom Maresca one local aficionado was quoted saying “As a young person, you love big, delicious flavors — so you drink Barolo. In your middle age, you seek something more solid, something less obvious — so you drink Barolo. In your wisest years, you want a wine that allows you to think about and savor the pleasures of maturity, both its maturity and your own — so you drink Barolo.”