Barolo has affectionately and appropriately been referred to as the “king of wines, and the wine of kings.” In a fine vintage and in the hands of a skilled winemaker, Barolo is unquestionably a noble wine, richly deserving of the many accolades that have been bestowed upon it.
Born on the Langhe Hills of Italy’s Piedmont, on steep craggy Alpine foothills as they tumble out of nearby Switzerland and France, Barolo is the most masculine of Piedmont’s three great Nebbiolo wines and the focal point in the region’s viticultural tiara. Although Gattinara, typically the lightest and most feminine of Piedmont’s great reds, and Barbaresco, sometimes referred to as a baby Barolo for its propensity for being lighter and easier to drink in its youth than its more stalwart neighbor, share the same noble Nebbiolo vine as Barolo, it is Barolo that possesses the pedigree and rules the roost. Barolo’s lineage dates back to the Middle Ages. And by the mid 18th century Barolo had begun to evolve into its present form in the vicinity of Alba, a distinct Old World city that serves as the white truffle capital of Italy as well as Piedmont’s premier wine town.
Today, the limited production of Barolo generates from the huddled hills of two valleys, Serralunga and Barolo, and their five principal communities, all of which lie to the southwest of the city of Alba and are reputed to impart distinctive characteristics and traits to their respective progeny. The townships of Serralunga, Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte are situated in the Serralunga Valley and are reputed to produce the region’s most masculine, longest-lived Barolos. Meanwhile, Barolo and La Morra, from which the more “delicate” wines of the zone are said to flow, are part of the Barolo Valley. However, there are many exceptions and innumerable variations in Barolo on the same theme, and this does not even take into account the decades old debate in Barolo over the relative merits of the modern versus traditional styles of Barolo, which have as much to do with individual winemaking techniques as they do the amount and kind of barrel aging the wines receive. Happily, in the end, there is great Barolo fashioned in all five of the major townships, in both modern and traditional styles. Salute!