• Nebbiolo, Barolo & Barbaresco

    I’ve been told by people on occasion that they really like Barolo or Barbaresco or Nebbiolo. Often they had no idea that these wines in their basest form are all three one and the same. There are differences, however, further down the line.

    In order to give you a clear picture of what makes these wines special I’m going to delve into some Italian culture and wine making rules.

    Nebbiolo on a label tends to mean that a minimum of influence on the wine has been imparted.

    When you see Barolo on the label it is referring to the region in Piemonte, Italy (North East) that the grape Nebbiolo is grown. It also refers to the wine making laws the Italian government has in place for wines made in Barolo that have DOCG, short for Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita, on the label.

    Barolos must be made from 100% Nebbiolo, 100% of which must be grown in Barolo (in California if California is on the label 25% can be grown elsewhere and 25% of the wine can also be of a grape not shown on the label.) The wine must also be aged at least three years, one in wood. If it also says Riserva on the label the wine must be aged for at least five years altogether.

    Barbaresco is from the region of Barbaresco just a small distance from Barolo. The difference is that one less year of aging is required. At least that’s the difference on the books.

    Italy is a very proud country. So proud in fact that they call Barolo the King of wine, and they call Barbaresco the Queen of wine.

    I often find myself agreeing with them.

    A good aged Barolo has on the nose dried rose petals, dust, cranberry, strong tannins, light color, and a long finish.

    Barbaresco tends to be lighter tannins, more approachable fruit, in a sense more delicate and alluring. Its something akin to an attractive woman blushing when you talk with her in line for coffee (You start with the aromas emanating from the glass, but have not yet committed to the taste). Her right hand tapping the counter (A sip leads you to the defensive yet emboldening tannins) and the left absentmindedly takes her hair and wraps it around her ear (The roses drift leading to dried cranberry and earth). She leans down and realizes she is exposing more of herself than she wanted to (The full fruit that was masked by the drying effect of the tannins and the acidity comes through). Blushing even more she grabs her coffee and runs, but in the process leaves her ID badge behind (The fruit leaves as quickly as it began, but all you can think about is how amazing every bit of it was and the lingering mouth feel makes you want nothing more than to find out exactly who she was and try to find her again.)

    Nebbiolo is perhaps the most naturally tannic (mouth drying effect) grape around yet is also one of the lightest colored wines on the market. Even with extended skin contact (to increase dying time) the wines tend to be of Pinot Noir color. The fruit qualities achieved in Italy tend to be on the more Dried flower earth driven side, and the age worthiness of these wines is just shy of unfathomable.

    I agree with the Italians on Barolo. It is the king, but calling Barabaresco the Queen I feel is incorrect. I think of Barbaresco more as the heart stealing vixen.