The Wines of Barolo and Barbaresco

By Brian Lemay 7 comments

(gentle orchestral music)>>(narrator)
In the northwest
corner of Italy, surrounded on three sides by
the mountains of the Alps, lies one of the world’s
great wine and food regions. (gentle orchestral music) In Italian, “Piemonte” can
literally be translated as “at the foot
of the mountains.” Famous for its
mushrooms, cheese, and its pasta, the
food in Piedmont takes a richer
and earthier form than foods from
farther south. (gentle orchestral music) (footsteps clacking) (people murmuring) Several white grape
varieties including Arneis,
Cortese, and Moscato are widely grown
throughout the region, with Moscato being best known
for the Spumante wines of Asti. The red grapes include
Barbera and Dolcetto, but the most famous
grape is Nebbiolo.>>(with Italian accent)
Nebbiolo, in spite of the look, that looks like
a little grape with very thin skin
is very powerful when it gets to
be in the glass.>>(with Italian accent)
The skin is very thin, and it’s very tannic, and it’s one
of the elements that gives the
characteristics to the wines.>>(with Italian accent)
First one to budbreak
in the spring, last one to be picked
in the fall. That’s why, traditionally,
it’s planted in the warmest vineyards
that look to the south, so they get more sun
and drier conditions.>>In this area,
you have some fog. The name of fog in
Italian is “nebbia,” and people think that
the name of the grape, the name of Nebbiolo is coming
from this characteristic.>>So, generically
speaking, talking about the nose
and the smell and the look
of Nebbiolo, you would say that it
is quite light in color– ruby, I would say, if I
have to use an adjective. On the nose is
very delicate, like rose petals,
The Nebbiolo grape finds its ultimate expression
in Barolo and Barbaresco. The principal city
of Alba is situated in the north center
of the Langhe region. With the relatively
small area of Barolo to its southwest, and even smaller Barbaresco
to its northeast. (crowd murmuring
indistinctly) These two regions
use the same grape, but with different topography,
aging requirements, and soil, they produce subtly
different wines.>>So the main
difference between Barolo
and Barbaresco comes from
the soil. The soil of Barbaresco
is slightly richer in nutrients,
in fertility, than the soil
in Barolo. (playful
guitar music) Both wines are extremely
complex in the nose. Both wines are extremely long
and complex in the finish, but the middle palate
of Barolo is fuller, and the middle palate
of Barbaresco is somehow brighter,
lighter, little more
ethereal. Back in the day,
a hundred years ago, they were saying that Barolo
was the wine of the kings, and Barbaresco was
the wine of the queens.>>(narrator)
Barbaresco has a minimum aging
requirement of two years, while Barolo
requires three. (playful
guitar music) The Reserva designation
demands an additional two years for both appellations. (smooth guitar music)>>Barbaresco was
not on the map until 1894. They started to make
wine in a proper way, in a Barolo style, and they started to market it
as an alternative to Barolo. Slightly lighter,
a little easier, a little more delicate. After Second World War,
when the economy was starting to
start again, the Gaja family really
started to focus and develop the
Barbaresco name, and that’s when,
in 1958, the Produttori was
founded with the goal of bringing Barbaresco to the
place that it deserved.>>(narrator)
While most producers release a Barbaresco
blended from vineyards throughout the
appellation, single vineyard bottlings
from exceptional sites are increasingly common and demand a premium
in the market. (light, playful
guitar music)>>In the very
beginning, Barolo was very different
to what it is now. Usually, the Barolo
we are talking about– those centuries, it was a
sweet wine and sparkling wine.>>(narrator)
The wine we know as Barolo today is actually a very
recent invention, both in its style
and in its name.>>Today, Barolo consists
of five major communes. Vineyards and townships
of La Morra and Barolo are known for
their calcareous marl soils from the
Tortonian era, and the corresponding
wines are often described as aromatic
and elegant in style. In contrast,
Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte d’Alba lie on older
Helvetian sandstone, resulting in more structured
and slow-maturing wines. (light, playful
folk music)>>We usually say that
you can cut the region in two halves. So I’m in the
northern part, were the soil you can
say is slightly younger, means sandier soil,
softer soil, and usually
what they say, softer soil means softer
tannins, smoother wines– more feminine, more
approachable, more elegant. The other half of the region–
so, the southern part– and I want to say villages
like Castiglione Falletto or Serralunga, the soil
is slightly older. We’re talking about more
limestone, sandstone. As a result, the wine ends up
being a little bit more muscly, a little bit
more spicy, a little bit
more structured than the northern side
of the appellation.>>(narrator)
Inspired by the prestige and prices accorded
to the grand cru wines in Burgundy,
France, Barolo producers began a
push for the great vineyards to be classified
according to quality.>>So talking
about the crus, so the single
vineyards, we don’t have such a
distinctive classification of vineyards like you
do have in Burgundy. So what happened
in the past– and I’m not talking
about 1,000 years ago, but let’s just go back
to the ’50s and the ’60s– they would just blend
the vineyards. There was no interest in
showing the single vineyards or the single characteristics
of each vineyard.>>(narrator)
The late 1970s and early ’80s brought
about another change.>>If you came here
in the ’50s and the ’60s, my grandpa would have told you,
“Oh, buy a bottle of Barolo, but drink it
in 25 years.” Thank you–maybe I
want to drink it tomorrow.>>The Barolo as a wine
is not an easy wine, especially in the very
beginning, because of tannins.>>Barolo was made for hundreds
of years the same way. And then, at some point,
some crazy winemakers, and I include my dad, Elio–
early ’80s, late ’70s, he was one of the
first to start approaching to winemaking
with different techniques. And that’s when the
modern winemaking started happening.>>Roughly, people have
labeled these two views about traditionalists
on one side and modernists
on another side.>>So the idea with the
modernist winemaking was to make more
approachable wines. Everybody does
green harvest. Everybody’s organic. So there’s not really a big
difference in the vineyards. Cellar, that’s where we’re
talking about differences. “Modernista”–modernist,
short maceration. For Altare, we’re talking
about five days on the skins for
Barolo. “Traditionalista”–
they’ll talk about weeks.>>They have started to
introduce the small oak. They were rigged
for aging. This has created
a very big conflict between those
two philosophies.>>To make space in
the cellar for barrels, he had to buy a chainsaw as well
to cut the big botti in pieces. So he was cutting
in pieces these botti that one of his
ancestors had built. You know, those botti
were 100 years old.>>The oak itself
adds tannin, so that’s why usually
this combination of shorter macerations
and small oak, because with longer
macerations, you are taking more
tannins from the grapes.>>Twenty-five years ago,
it was a huge fight.>>In this moment, it
is not black or white, like in that period.>>It’s kind of hard today
to put a strict line to distinguish
the styles, because today, the styles are,
you know, melting and mixing. Now, if a wine is good,
it’s really good. No one cares
how it was made. (jazzy piano music)>>(narrator)
Piedmont is now a hub of Italian food
and wine culture. With increasing
gastronomic tourism and critical acclaim, prices and notoriety
of the region’s wines are on the rise. Today, whether
traditional, modern, or somewhere
in between, the wines of Barolo
and Barbaresco indisputably stand among the
great wines of the world. GuildSomm is a nonprofit
membership organization for wine professionals. To join our
online community, visit us on the web
at (mellow folk music)



May 5, 2017, 5:06 pm Reply

I just subscribed to your channel, very nice videos.

Alex M

Jan 1, 2018, 10:55 pm Reply

LOL at 9:20

Huy Nguyen

Jan 1, 2018, 5:51 am Reply

Great introduction about Piemont.
In addition, May I ask what's the music themes during the video?
Best regards

Noe Valenzuela

Mar 3, 2018, 10:35 am Reply

Straight to the point! Learned so much of this video

Dan Alexandru

Dec 12, 2018, 11:20 pm Reply

I just opened a bottle of Barbaresco from 1976. I had this bottle and I have another one that is a Barolo from 1959 as a gift from friends in Italy. I never tasted a wine that is so powerful and remains on your palate for so long and continues to develop even after 30 minutes. Now I don't know what to expect from the Barolo from 1959 :)) I will open that at a more special event.

Marino Palmirotta

Feb 2, 2019, 1:39 pm Reply

Why does food from Piemonte take a "richer and earthier form than foods from farther south"?


May 5, 2019, 10:12 am Reply

You are telling me that your grandpa said drink it in 25 years. Pure lie and marketing.

Leave a Reply