Barolo and Barbaresco
Barolo and Barbaresco are located in the rolling hills of Langhe, in south-eastern Piedmont. One can find in this marvellous environment a collection of mesoclimates, soil types, and altitudes. They are powerful wines made of Nebbiolo, which is a native grape of the region. This Italian grape develops fragrances of tar, roses, violets, leather, prunes, and black figs. Both are DOCG wines (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita), meaning that the winemakers there meet the highest quality standards, and thus producing wines amongst the greatest in Italy.
Barolo and Barbaresco vines are planted on steep and cool sites, where the Nebbiolo grape develops and expresses its potential like nowhere else in the world. The area of production for Barbaresco amounts to three tiny villages, eleven for Barolo, and the former is deemed to be more graceful. Often compared with prestigious Burgundy Pinot Noir, the two are legendary wines in their country, and even abroad where wine enthusiasts like to enjoy these two ambassadors of Italian wines.
In their youth, wines from these appellations have firm tannins, due to the fact that Nebbiolo is a late ripening variety. They need to be cellared for several years before the tannins become molten. Otherwise, a young Barolo or Barbaresco may be a bit monolithic and not fully enjoyable.
Both became old-fashioned wines in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when most consumers began to favour international red wine styles, with more flavours and suppleness. Some winemakers countered the trend and began to produce “International Barolo style” wines: the new wines benefited from shorter periods of maceration and fermentation, less time ageing in new small oak barrels, and extended periods of bottle ageing prior to release.
Yet, traditional winemakers in Barolo and Barbaresco made tremendous progress in the late 1980’s: most of them invested in temperature-controlled tanks, thus preventing astringent tannins and allowing better fermentation processes. Plus, they started to use small French oak barrels and to age longer their wines in bottles before release. Global warming also helps getting riper Nebbiolo, as experienced in the late twenty years, which were almost all great vintages for wine.
Barolo: 36 months (18 months in oak barrels)
Barolo Riserva: 62 months (18 months in oak barrels)
Barbaresco: 26 months (9 months in oak barrels)
Barbaresco Riserva: 50 months (9 months in oak barrels)
Information by Jean-Baptiste Martin