Italian Wine Regions

Barolo DOCG

Barolo DOCG

Barolo is a type of red wine that is produced in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is made primarily from the Nebbiolo grape variety, which is known for its tannic structure, high acidity, and complex flavors.

Barolo wine is typically aged for several years in oak barrels, which helps to soften its tannins and impart a rich and layered flavor. Barolo production rules are established by the "disciplinare di produzione" for Barolo DOCG and are very strict.

The wine is known for its deep ruby color, with hints of garnet as it ages. On the nose, Barolo wines are often described as having aromas of red fruit, dried flowers, and spices, with earthy notes of truffles and leather.

Barolo is considered one of the most prestigious wines in Italy, and is often referred to as the "king of wines" or the "wine of kings." It pairs well with hearty dishes like roasted meats, game, and strong cheeses.

The Terroir of Barolo

Climate: Continental with hot summers and chilly winters, the Barolo region has a temperate climate. The Nebbiolo grape variety thrives in the area's microclimate, which is helped by the hills that surround the vineyards and the Alps' protection from the region's harsh northern winds. The grapes' flavors and aromas are concentrated during the growing season due to the temperature differences between day and night.

Soil: Sand and gravel can be found in some places, but the majority of the soil in the Barolo region is made up of clay and limestone. The acidity of the grapes is a result of the well-drained, high calcium carbonate content of the soil. Additionally, the soil plays a crucial role in controlling the vines' water supply, which is crucial in an area with little rainfall.

Topography: The Barolo vineyards are positioned on rocky slopes that are 200–500 meters above sea level. The hills give the grapes excellent sun exposure and regulate their temperature. The drainage of the soil, which is essential for the health of the vines, is another important factor influenced by the region's topography.

Tortonian Soils

Tortonian soils are a type of geological formation found in the Barolo wine region. These soils are named after the Tortonian age, which occurred approximately 7-11 million years ago and was characterized by a warm and humid climate.

Calcareous marl, a type of sedimentary rock with a high concentration of calcium carbonate, is the main component of Tortonian soils. Over millions of years, the remains of marine organisms like coral and shells accumulated to form this rock formation.

The grape variety Nebbiolo does particularly well in Tortonian soils. Vine roots can reach far into the soil in search of water and nutrients thanks to the calcareous marl's excellent drainage capabilities. This contributes to the production of grapes with complex flavors and aromas as well as high levels of acidity and tannins, which are essential for creating wines that can age well and potentially get better over time.

Helvetian Soils

Millions of years old, Helvetian soils are made of bedrock formations of sandstone and siltstone. These soils are renowned for their superior drainage and low fertility, which can make it difficult to grow grapes but also result in wines of high quality.

Helvetian soils are typically found in Barolo at higher altitudes and on hill slopes. They are frequently blended with clay and limestone, which may be a factor in the distinctive flavors and aromas of Barolo wines.

Helvetian v Tortonian

Tortonian soils in Barolo are younger than Helvetian soils, they are found at lower elevations and have a higher fertility than Helvetian soils. Wines produced from grapes grown in Tortonian soils are usually more approachable in their youth; they display softer tannins and are more fruit-forward and easy-drinking wines.

On the other hand, Helvetian soils in Barolo are older, dating back to the early Miocene period, and are primarily composed of sandstone and siltstone. These soils are typically found at higher elevations and have lower fertility, which can result in lower yields but also more concentrated flavors and aromas in the grapes. Wines produced from grapes grown in Helvetian soils tend to be more structured and complex, with higher tannins and a greater potential for aging.

In a nutshell, the wines from Helvetian soils tend to be more structured and age-worthy, while wines from Tortonian soils tend to be more approachable in their youth.

These are some of the best Barolo producers:

  • Giacomo Conterno
  • Bruno Giacosa
  • Vietti
  • Bartolo Mascarello
  • Gaja
  • Aldo Conterno
  • Elio Altare
  • Luciano Sandrone
  • Roberto Voerzio
  • Massolino
  • Paolo Scavino
  • Giuseppe Rinaldi
  • Ceretto
  • Cavallotto
  • Brovia
  • La Spinetta
  • Poderi Colla
  • Pio Cesare
  • Fontanafredda
  • Marchesi di Barolo

    Production Requrements under the appellation Barolo DOCG

    Grape variety: Barolo DOCG must be made from a minimum of 85% Nebbiolo grapes. Up to 15% of other local red grape varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto, are allowed under the appellation rules. In reality, the great majority of Barolo made is 100% Nebbiolo.

    Vineyard location: The grapes must be grown in the Barolo production zone, which includes 11 communes in the Piedmont region of Italy. These are the 11 communes: Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d'Alba, Monforte d'Alba, La Morra, Novello, Verduno, Grinzane Cavour, Diano d'Alba, Roddi, Cherasco.

    Yield: The maximum yield of grapes is 8 tons per hectare. Harvest: Grapes must be harvested by hand and cannot be harvested before October 1st.

    Vinification: The wine must be aged for a minimum of 38 months, with at least 18 months of that time spent in oak barrels. If the wine is aged for at least 62 months, it can be labeled as "Barolo Riserva."

    Alcohol content: The minimum alcohol content for Barolo DOCG is 13%.

    Labeling: The wine must be bottled in the production zone and labeled with the Barolo DOCG seal.