Barolo- long live The King.

IMG_2432Fact: Many years ago, a Barolo wine produced from nebbiolo was made in such a way that it was actually sweet.

Fact: That’s no longer the case.

Fact: Barolo wines today, with their unique polyphenol, acid, and tannin components, are widely regarded as some of the most complex and long-lived wines of the world. They are often referred to as “The King of wines”.

Fact: If you try to taste too many of these wines in a short period of time, in the summer heat, without clear and accurate directions home, you may regret it.

Fact: Then again, you may not.

After my last post on Barbaresco, a friend of mine e-mailed me and suggested I go back and read this blog’s Bio page. Apparently, discussing the meaning of life through the skins of the nebbiolo grape was not the best way to “lighten things up a bit”. Guilty as charged. But it’s hard not to take this region, these wines so seriously. They truly are profound wines in every sense of the word; intense, far-reaching, and possessing incredible depth, Barolo and Barbaresco wines are worthy of all the ooohing and aaahing you can spare. Nevertheless, I’ll try and tone it down a bit and come back down to earth.

*  *  *

My first winery visit in the commune di Barolo was at Azelia, just outside of Barolo in Castiglione Falletto. The Scavino family has been in the wine business in this region since the early part of the 20th century, and utilizes some modern wine-making techniques to compliment the traditions of old. I found the Barbera d’Alba a little too bulky for my taste when it comes to this grape, but the Barolos were fantastic. Dark, brooding, and firm, the 2005 Barolo (normale) still had generous flavors of black fig and tea. The 2005 San Rocco Barolo, while hidden a bit behind the oak, had incredible aromas of strawberry preserves, bergamont, and red rose.

The true magic of these wines, though, lies in the wait (pun intended). “The wait”, of course, refers to the idea of you putting your Barolo away for many years and letting it evolve before enjoying it. I’m not a huge fan of this approach to wine, but I understand it, and am guilty of it. And really, if there was a wine to utilize for this “lay and wait” approach, Barolo would have to be it. The chemical make-up of these wines allow, even demand at times, them to safely age for many years. Below are some of the library wines we tasted through.


Another day at the office…


I wish. But unfortunately, these are not for greedy visitors like myself. I have had the pleasure of tasting older Barolos, though, and I can tell you, they are special- and surprisingly robust. A good question: what are the Barolos being made today, with more modern winery techniques, going to be like in 30, 40 years? Only time will tell.

*  *  *

In the actual village of Barolo, I tasted some producers I had not heard of before, and was surprised by how soft some of these were. Now there’s a word you don’t often hear when discussing Barolo. But I’ll be damned if some of these weren’t fairly delicate. Take the 2004 Camerano Barolo– this was a wine that had intense flavors of spiced dates, raspberry, and Christmas cake (Merry Christmas!). Yet the finish was fairly smooth and gentle, without the trademark intensity of most Barolos. I asked the woman behind the bar in the enoteca how long the bottle had been open.

“…Forse un ora,” (maybe an hour) she replied.

I looked again at my glass and sniffed.  “Solo un ora? Wow…”

“Si. Un ora e mezzo (an hour and a half).”

…Wait. “Un ora? O un ora e mezzo?”

She paused, and then offered, “No… (rapid, intense Italian that flew by me like someone on the auotostrada) ending with ‘un ora’.

(What the f…) “Bene — grazie!”

And off I went.


Later that day, at an early dinner in town, I had the 2003 Fratelli Barale Vigna Bussia riserva Barolo with my meal. Whew! That’s a mouthful, eh? So was the wine. Here was a beautiful example of old style Barolo; aged three years in large oak casks, followed by another two years in 54 liter demijohns, the wine’s tannins were still gripping but not overly aggressive, and the fruit wasn’t muted by the wood. Incredible aromas of violet, rose, rosemary, you name it. And the flavors. Packed with layers of espresso, blackberry, exotic spices… man. It was amazing.

Here’s the rub: these wines, especially when they’re still a bit young, can absolutely DESTROY the other flavors of your meal. I was fortunate, and had Barolo-braised beef with this, which didn’t lose it’s own subtle flavors to the power of the wine. But these wines are just too complex and powerful to use casually with meals (they ain’t cheap either…), so tread carefully. Go for roasted meats, aged cheeses, earthy flavored foods (think ‘shrooms and truffles), and dishes that have nebbiolo in them already when food pairing.

*  *  *

The last part of my day/evening in Barolo consisted of aimless meandering through the streets after my meal. At one point, I caught my reflection in a shop window and realized my face had the pinched expression of someone lost in the desert. And I was in the shade. Like I said, these wines are powerful, and trying to pack in a full day of tasting, followed by a Barolo-based meal… maybe not the brightest of ideas.

I write this post now from our flat back in Scotland. It’s good to be “home” after being on the road for a while, and I actually missed the cool, wet weather– must be the Portland in me. But there’s a sting in the fact that I’m not there anymore, scurrying around the cobble-stoned streets of Canelli, Asti, Barolo, attempting, and from time to time succeeding, to communicate with the locals. What an incredible place. And what incredible wine. I’m glad Barolo was my last destination in Italy. After all, what better place to wrap things up than in the halls of The King?


One of the many gates to the Kingdom of Barolo

Until we meet again,

Buone saluti a voi tutte!!



~ by Jared on July 2, 2009.

6 Responses to “Barolo- long live The King.”

  1. All those references to The King and you refrained from mentioning Michael Jackson? I’m impressed… Seriously though, great post, it read well… I just want to hear more!

    • Aaahhh, I was going to mention that, but I just couldn’t put those two in the same drawer, so to speak…

      Here’s a little somethin’-somethin’ for you, though:

      May the King of Pop rest in peace.

  2. Just back from 2 weeks in the Midwest – Great Lakes – while it was a surprisingly do-able vacation even with the inlaws (low expectations helped) – I have to THANK YOU for last 15 minutes i spent traveling with you in Italy…it was truly felt like i was transported there – I needed that escape and feeling of being ‘there’ whereever there is – I will get back to my former lifestyle of travel (and it never included the midwest mind you…) but until then – keep up the awesome work…someone has to do it – right? smiles…kari shawen

    ps- i got the wine dude at belmont to give me the “jared” discount….i said 15% really wasn’t good enough…tee hee…thanks for all the smiles today…travel on…

    • Hi Kari,

      Glad you had a good time in the Midwest (oxymoron?), and happy to have you along for the ride in Italia. Don’t forget to buckle up, though…

      Traveling is so cool, but it’s even cooler with friends. I’m off to Germany next week, and guess what? You’re coming!

      The “Jared” discount? Never heard of it… 😉 Tell the dude at Belmont (Ron?) to loosen that grip a little bit and make a deal. Tell him I said so… and then duck!


  3. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..Tony Brown

  4. Thanks Tony!

    Sometimes I feel like my “substance” is hard to get to, as I can go on and on and on and……..

    But I’m grateful for readers like yourself and I hope you continue to read, get some laughs, and maybe learn something from this nutty blog.

    With excellent cheer,

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