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Barolo – is it a grape, is it a producer, is it the Plonk team’s attempt at saying ‘barrel’ in Italian? No, it is a seminal wine-producing region of Piedmont, Italy. One that can very well stake a claim at providing us with some of the very best, age-worthy Italian red wines. So whether you’re a novice to the area, or an existing fan keen to learn more, here’s our guide to Barolo.
So it’s not a grape…?
An easy mistake to make, especially given the grape will almost never feature on the bottle label. As with many Old-World wines, the region is provided, leaving it to you to uncover what the hell is going on under the cork.
The Barolo grape is actually Nebbiolo, and exclusively Nebbiolo. No inclusion of other varietals is permitted if the winemaker wants to label their wine ‘Barolo’.
Nebbiolo naturally retains a high acidity and tannin level, which subsequently are key features in any Barolo wine. Thanks to the grape quality from the region, along with the minimum requirement by law for the wine to age for three years before release (of which 18 months must be in oak), the wines are usually full-bodied with great intensity and complexity, and are often a real pleasure to drink! The Paolo Conterno Ginestra Barolo 2013 is a prime example.
Sounds lovely! But implies they could get pricey…?
You’re partly right. Due to the highly selective process of grape selection, the difficulty of harvesting grapes in often very steep-sloped vineyard plots across the horseshoe-shaped valley where Barolo is located, and the costs associated with the maturation process in oak and bottle, this isn’t going to be a regular weekly purchase (unless you’re absolutely caked).
That being said, the cost vs quality is generally very good, especially compared to Bordeaux or Burgundy of a similar standard, and therefore worth the cash. Particularly given that getting into a top-end Barolo wine transcends you momentarily to another world. Definitely consider acquiring one as a wine gift or for a special occasion.
Wines of this quality usually benefit with age, right? So when is best to drink it?
With the aforementioned acidity and tannin make-up of the wine, along with added complexity from oak maturation, these wines are primed for a long ageing, much like a quality Burgundy. You can still drink them early and have a wonderful time doing so, no doubt about it. But the evolution in bottle over time is sublime.
That’s why we only stock Barolos that have had a long time ageing already and are ready to go, such as the Podere Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Big 'd Big 2009 - removing any guess work for you!
Is it worth it…?
You may consider this to be a slight bias given we love wine, but it really is. Matching up to superb Bordeaux and Burgundy productions is no mean feat, but Barolo wine makers largely manage to accomplish this, year in, year out. They offer a different dimension to the French stalwarts, possibly mixing up your standard special-occasion go-to wine. Plus, they are immensely versatile – great as a gift, for a dinner party, BBQ or wine and cheese night.
Explore our range of Barolo’s here.