What is Barolo?
Barolo is a wine made in the north of Italy, in a region called Piedmont which borders France and Switzerland. The name comes from the village in the region and the wine is made from 100% Nebbiolo.
The wine has to be aged for 38 months after the harvest before it is released. Out of the 38 months, 18 has to be in wood. To be called a ‘Riserva’ the wine is aged 5 years before release. Barolos are high in acidity and in tannins and therefore, they need to be eaten with dishes rich in protein in order not to be underwhelmed; fillet steak and risotto with porcini are some examples.
In a way it’s ironic that the name ‘Nebbiolo’ is said to come from ‘nebbia’ (fog) which can actually hinder its ripening. The fog descends on the Langhe and Monferrato hills during September and October and as a grape that matures later than other varieties in the region (Barbera and Dolcetto) it can struggle when this fog descends. In Italy, Nebbiolo needs south and south-west facing slopes, ideally at 150-300 metres. The climate here is continental; hot summers and cold winters. In Italy Nebbiolo performs best on soils that are clay and limestone.
Perhaps because Nebbiolo is so revered and it is hard to handle has there has been a lot research in how to get the best characteristics out of the grape. Winemakers in Califormia, Chile, Argentina, here in Australia and surprisingly in Mexico have been planting Nebbiolo. Characteristics of the wine include blackberry, roses, tar, cherries, damsons, mulberries, leather, herbs, licorice and dried fruit. It is certainly a respected grape and the only one that is permitted in the DOCG Barolo and DOCG Barbaresco.
Piedmont doesn’t just grow red varieties, whites are well-known too; Arneis and Favorita and more familiar with the consumer is Moscato which is used to make Moscato d’Asti, a semi sweet sparkling wine.