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The History Of The Royal Wines From Barolo

Barolo - The wine of kings, the king of wines! The generous touch has been attached to Barolo for generations, and here you can read more about why and get to know Barolo bett

Royal Wines From Barolo

Have you ever wondered why Barolo is called "the wine of kings, the king of wines"? The generous touch has been attached to Barolo wines for generations. What exactly is it that makes Barolo the wine of kings, and is the 2016 vintage really the greatest ever? Join us in our journey to Piedmont and get the answers in this article about Barolo.

Barolo is undergoing a rapid evolution these years, with perceptions of the area changing for the better. This may sound simple, but it should be seen against the background of history. Barolo is truly an old and traditional wine-growing region, but on the big world stage, the perception of Barolo has not matched its self-perception in recent times. Fortunately, this is about to change.

Barolo Draws Parallels With Burgundy

Barolo has more in common with the prestigious Burgundies and Bordeaux than just the initials. As it is known from France, the vineyards in Barolo have since 2010 been mapped and given a classification - just as it is known from Burgundy, where each vineyard is recognized for its unique expression.

This leads to a natural increase in interest in the individual winery, which is likely to be followed by rising prices. Origin is the keyword for wine lovers from all over the world. They will prefer to pick up the phone and zoom in completely on the individual vine to get a sense of the place. The overall experience of the soil, the slopes, and the rustle of history help to create interest in a wine region.

In Barolo, the mapping of the vineyards has created the basis for increased interest, as the area is relatively small, but with great nuances in the individual sub-areas. It will probably be a few years before the majority can compare Monforte and Serralunga d'Alba, just as they can compare Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin. When it comes to wine, time is an important concept, so the change you are seeing in these years will spread for many years into the future and will only increase interest in the wines of Barolo.

Barolo road sign Barolo is located in Piedmont in the north-western part of Italy.

The History Of Barolo

Barolo is located in Piedmont in northwest Italy, at the bottom of the Alps in a beautiful and hilly landscape that creates small pockets of the unique terroir. Barolo and Barbaresco are both parts of the Langhe region and both share the Nebbiolo grape as the only grape variety allowed. Stylistically, it can be said that Barolo is the king with the most power, and Barbaresco is the queen with more finesse. In terms of investment, Barolo is one of the two areas that produce the most interesting wines, and thus the focus of this article.

Barolo has existed as "Nebbiolo del Barolo" for hundreds of years and was first mentioned in 1751 when a batch of wines was shipped to England. Here, the wine is referred to as "Barol" and was compared to the wines from Bordeaux. Presumably, the wine at this time had a lot of sweetness, which was a characteristic for many years. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson toured the area and described the 'Nebuile' as a wine with the same sweetness and character as Madeira. When Jefferson was later elected President of the United States, he served 250 bottles of Nebbiolo to mark the occasion.

The oldest existing bottle from the Langhe region is called "Cannubi 1752" and is owned by the Manzone family, who still produce Barolo. Cannubi is the name of one of the vineyards now known as the best terroir in the region. So, the change we see today had already been seen by someone in 1752. The vineyard is more important than the grape and the village.

Barolo - The Wine Of Kings, The King Of Wines

The royal claim was at first earned after the King of Sardinia was the shipper of the before mentioned wine, which was sent to England in 1751. Since then, King Vittorio Emanuele II - King of Sardinia and later King of Italy - showed particular interest in the area and acquired the large Fontanafredda domain. Barolo became not only the wine of kings but also the favorite among the better part of the bourgeoisie of the time. Over the years, the nickname has endured, and many royal houses around the world probably have their share of Barolo wine in their cellars.

When Italy was united in 1861, the government continued to confiscate land from the church, which was then sold in small parcels. And in such small parcels that cooperatives were formed to cultivate the areas in sufficient quantities to be profitable.

In the 19th century, the names Barolo and Barbaresco were so well known that in 1908 the first association was founded to protect the names and wines from here. In 1926 the first official designation of Barolo came, and the area was mapped for the first time. In 1966, the area received DOC status and in 1980 Barolo was the first to be awarded the highest classification DOCG, along with Brunello di Montalcino, among others.

Originally, Barolo was made up of the five municipalities of Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d'Alba, and Monforte d'Alba. Today, these five accounts for 90% of production, and the best-classified vineyards are all located in these communes.

Until the 1960s, wine merchants and cooperatives still dominated the production of Barolo, and only gradually did the smaller family-owned wineries emerge. For the same reason, vineyards in Barolo are still small today and the individual wine producer rarely owns many hectares.

Nebbiolo Is The Dominant Variety Of Grape In Barolo

Nebbiolo is the grape that dominates in the production of Barolo - and what a brilliant grape it is. There is no doubting of the greatness of the wines that Nebbiolo produces in the Langhe - both Barolo and Barbaresco. What is more surprising, however, is that Nebbiolo is practically not grown successfully outside this area.

Here, at the bottom of the Alps, Nebbiolo has the perfect microclimate to develop optimally. Nebbiolo is often compared to Pinot Noir, and there are many similarities to highlight. The most obvious is that both grapes produce wines with a relatively light color and high flavor intensity despite their lightness.

At the same time, both grapes have the potential to produce very long-lasting wines under optimal conditions. The big difference comes in the aromatic notes, where the Nebbiolo oozes rose petals and wild cherries, and with age, there are similarities to balsamic vinegar, leather, and mushrooms from the forest floor.

The difference is also noticeable in the structure. Both grapes have high acidity, so the tannins play a prominent role in Nebbiolo. As a youngster, a Nebbiolo can be tight and dry, but with age, an oasis of nuances and soft tannins opens up in the best wines.

Today, Nebbiolo is also grown successfully elsewhere in Piedmont and in the north. Places that by no means have the same attention as Barolo and Barbaresco, but which can show promising tendencies with time. In the world, Nebbiolo is rarely seen. The most interesting specimens come from the south of Australia, where you can see a similarity with the climate and the long growing season known from Barolo.

Manufacture And Storage Of Barolo

A Barolo may only be made from Nebbiolo harvested from the vineyards in the area, and a maximum of 56 hectolitres per hectare may be harvested. A Barolo is always stored before it is released on the market. A Barolo must be aged for at least 38 months before it is released on the market, 18 months of which must be in wooden barrels. A Barolo Riserva must be aged for at least 62 months, 18 months of which must be in barrels.

Today, more than 14 million bottles of Barolo are produced each year. Since 1980, the vineyard area in Barolo has doubled with Nebbiolo. The area now counts a small 2,200 hectares of vineyards, wherein 1980 there were only 1,111 hectares of Nebbiolo in Barolo. Not only has production increased significantly, but fortunately quality has kept pace. Never has a better Barolo been produced than in these years, which is why not least the 2016 vintage is described as perhaps the greatest of all time.

MGA - Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva Provides Insight Into Barolo

Today, the vineyards, the soil conditions, and all the details of Barolo are mapped better than ever. This will undoubtedly help to increase interest in the years to come. Alessandro Masnaghetti is the man behind the mapping of the area, and his website goes into depth with details about the vineyards in the area.

Here, too, the comparison with Burgundy becomes relevant, as you can now clarify the differences in taste not only at the municipal level but down to the level of the individual vineyards. In the long run, you can then perhaps also talk about the differences between the parcels, on the individual vineyards. It is the precision that is now generating further interest in Barolo among wine lovers around the world.

Today, it is possible to notice on the label if it is a "Riserva" and in this way accommodate the prolonged aging. In addition, you can now divide the origin of the grapes into three levels. This is basically not to be understood as a qualitative ranking, but only as an indication of the origin;

Comune: one of the 11 communes can be indicated on the label.

MGA or Cru - one of the 170 defined MGA zones can be indicated on the label.

Vigna - the name of the vineyard can be mentioned, but only if it stands with an MGA.

Barolo landscape Beautiful Barolo in its almost fairytale-like surroundings.

The Five Large Municipalities In Barolo

In Barolo, there are five large municipalities, all of which were also part of the original Barolo, and even today they appear to be the strongest out of the 11 municipalities.

Barolo is, of course, the heart of the district and is one of the most beautiful towns in the whole area. Nebbiolo has been grown here with great success for generations and many of the historical events in the area are centralized around the town's castle. The style of wines from the municipality of Barolo is more complex than many, as the area is spread over very different soil types and sites. The tannin is often a little rustic but gains with age.

There are 37 MGAs, the most famous being Cannubi, Bussia and San Lorenzo. There are more than 40 wineries in Barolo, some of the best known being Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi and the great Marchesi di Barolo.

Castiglione Falletto
In this small village, beautifully situated on a hill, you will find wines known for their floral style and balanced fruit. Lots of fresh notes of cherries and slightly less raw tannin.

There are 20 MGAs in Castiglione Falletto, of which the best known are Bricco Boschis, Monprivato and Bricco Rocche. There are more than 25 wineries in the municipality, the best known being Vietti, Cavallotto, Scavino and Roagna.

La Morra
La Morra is one of the very large municipalities and accounts for almost a quarter of the production of Barolo. The almost 500 hectares of vineyards naturally give a certain spread in styles, where especially the producer plays a big role in the final style. La Morra is a gem in the area and from the downtown square, you can sit and enjoy the view throughout Barolo. The style of the wines is elegant and with fine rose notes and velvety tannins. Part of the style can be attributed to the highest vineyards in Barolo.

In La Morra there are 39 MGAs, the most famous of which are Rocche dell’Annunziata, Brunate and Cerequio. The best of the nearly 70 different producers are Roberto Voerzio, Renato Ratti, Elio Altare and Oddero.

Monforte d’Alba
Monforte d'Alba is a commune dominated by the very large MGA Bussia, which has many different producers and styles. In general, the wines are ripe in fruit, with great richness and a good tannic bite.

There are only 11 MGAs in Monforte d'Alba, but the two largest are Bussia (340 hectares) and Bricco San Pietro with 380 hectares. Despite the large size, however, it makes sense. The soil is almost identical even on a relatively large area. This helps to give the wines from Monforte d'Alba a uniform style. There are more than 50 wineries in the municipality, the best known of which are Elio Grasso, Domenico Clerico, Aldo Conterno, and, last but not least, Giacomo Conterno.

Serralunga d’Alba
Serralunga d'Alba is known far and wide for both cheap bargains and some of the most sought-after Barolos. Giacomo Conterno makes his Monfortino here from the MAG called Francia. The style is typically very open in the early years, but the tannin has the depth to produce some of Barolo's most long-aging wines.

There are 39 MGAs in Serralunga d'Alba, with Francia, Lazzarito, and Prapo among the best known. The 30 or so producers based in the area include such famous names as Luigi Pira, Ettore Germano, and the great Fontanafredda.

The Other Barolo Municipalities

The last six municipalities are located in the suburbs and are significantly smaller than the big five.

The northernmost small municipality with 11 MGAs and 9 wineries. The best-known MGA is Monvigliero. It is generally a medium-bodied wine with ripe tannins in the first years. Burlotto is probably the best-known producer, but several other producers have started to make a Monvigliero.

One MGA and one manufacturer. Umberto Fracassi is the name of the man who has his family winery lying here. Cherasco is known for its airy and elegant wines.

Diano d’Alba
A municipality with three MGAs, of which La Vigna is the best known. More Dolcetto than Nebbiolo is produced in Diano d’Alba. One of the most famous manufacturers here is Rizieri.

Often referred to as the municipality of Barolo itself, which is an extension of the south. The coldest sub-climate with chilled wines from the south. There are seven MGAs in this municipality with Ravera as the best. Elvio Cogno is the producer from this area to know. Wonderfully intense wines with good ripe fruit and soft tannins. An area that attracts

One MGA can be found in Roddi, namely Bricco Ambrogio. Olivero Mario can be highlighted as the most prominent producer of the four in the area.

Grinzane Cavour
A municipality with eight MGAs and six wineries. The Best MGA is Castello and the most famous producer in the area is the large Cantina Terre del Barolo, which was founded by Arnaldo Rivera.

Barolo Faces A Great Future

Barolo's already famous 2016 vintage, launched in early 2021, is synonymous with a new era of Barolo. The 2016 vintage will be a benchmark for posterity that will guide the next generations and has already ensured that the whole world has started to look at Barolo again. Already, you can see how the 2016 vintage is also pulling up the prices of the other vintages and paving the way for the big breakthrough for some of the many talented winemakers in the region. If you want to read more about the 2016 vintage mentioned in Barolo and Barbaresco, click here to read the full article...

Furthermore, the increased knowledge about the origin of the wines and the unique characteristics of the vineyards will lead to greater interest in Barolo wines and not least in the individual producers, where an emerging generation of young winemakers is on the move.

The consortium will promote the individual MGAs and wineries better, and small productions that do not come from the villages today will appear on the market and show the diversity of the area. The level and potential of Barolo are so high that the next 100-point producer can be found in any of the 11 communes.

Everything points in the direction of a great future for Barolo, but it has far from always been idyllic in northwestern Italy. If you go back to the 1980s, you can talk about a definite war between the traditionalists and the modernists and you can read much more about it in our article about the so-called Barolo Wars - click here and read more.

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