Mature Barolo from the cellar for Christmas

Barolo is a great match for hearty cuisine served up in the dark winter months. Below, Decanter's tastings team dishes out some top Barolo recommendations for drinking now...

Introduction by James Button

Piedmont, in the north-west corner of Italy, is as renowned for its food as its wines. The town of Bra is home to the Slow Food movement, while arguably the most famous truffle market in the world can be found in historic Alba. Both espresso and vermouth lay claim to having been invented in the region’s capital, Torino.

But here, the wine should really take centre stage, and fittingly the region’s most famous export – Barolo – is known as the ‘king of wines’.

Nebbiolo in Piedmont commonly serves up plenty of acidity – a feature preserved in the grapes by the cool morning mists that roll over the hillsides of Monforte – which provides freshness to these wines and balances the weight of tannin and fruit. As discussed in our piece on wines for the Christmas table, acidity is your friend in these situations.

Alongside red fruits, such as cherry, classic Barolo aromas can include violet, rose, liquorice and tar, depending on a wine’s stage of development.

Mature Barolo for Christmas:


How Barolo wines work with food

Barolo’s tannic structure can be overpowering when young, but with time the tannins begin to integrate and soften.

Barolo works well with red meats and game, but be careful not to drown out older wines with strongly flavoured sauces. It’s also a fitting match for the region’s truffles.

The high acidity of Nebbiolo enables Barolo to cut through oily, fatty and salty ingredients, and reach equilibrium with high acidity foods such as tomato.

Barolo Crus: Brief guide

The vast majority of Barolo is produced in the five main communes: Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba.

In addition, each of these communes has several vineyard crus, which are each notable for their individual characteristics – much like a grand or premier cru Burgundy. Both Barolo and Burgundy can be defined by their patchwork of communes, crus, and family-owned domaines.

There are strict laws designed to maintain the quality of any wine labelled as Barolo. Primarily, it must be made from 100% Nebbiolo. It must also be aged for at least 38 months before release, or five years if it’s labelled as a Barolo Riserva.

See also: The Cru-isation of Barolo, by Michaela Morris


You might also like:

Tasting Borgogno Barolo Riserva back to 1937 (August 2018)

Ten of the best Italian vineyards & terroirs (August 2018)

Top Barolo 2008 wines: Panel tasting results (October 2018)