There is an enchanting place called Piedmont (or Piemonte in Italian) in Northern Italy. Piedmont is aptly named (it means at the foot of the mountain) because mountains surround the region on three sides. The Ligurian Apennines and the Maritime Alps separate the region from Liguria (an Italian region) and France. The Alps form the border with France to the west, Valle D’Aosta (an Italian region), and Switzerland to the north. The regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna lie to the east. Piedmont is one of the few Italian regions that are completely landlocked. To compensate for the lack of picturesque bodies of water, there are the Alps in all their snow-capped splendor to ponder. And it’s pretty big..9,802 square miles; Piedmont is the second largest region in Italy, after Sicily. And it’s best known for chocolate, truffles, and, best of all, wine!
Which is the point of this blog. Piedmont is home to some of the best red wines in the world. While many delectable varietals are grown in that area, the four biggies or powerhouses are Barbera, Barolo, Barbaresco, and one of my favorites, Dolcetto.
Let’s start with Barolo. To confuse things a bit, Barolo and Barbaresco are production areas in Piedmont, not the name of the grape that makes these wines. (Remember, in Europe, wine is often named after the place it’s from, not the grape it’s made from.) Barolo and Barbaresco are made from the Nebbiolo grape, one of the oldest grapes in Italy, first mentioned in writing in the 13th century. Nebbiolo is grown throughout Piedmont, but its wines from Barolo and Barbaresco are put on a pedestal and have caused a commotion over the last ten centuries.
And, to complicate things further, Barolo is a small commune or village (I’ve been there; it’s small). And it’s also part of a larger wine area called the Langhe. And it is a UNESCO region referred to as Langhe, Roero, Monferrato. Are you thoroughly confused now? The important things to remember out of all of this are:
· Barolo must contain 100% Nebbiolo grapes
· Those grapes must come from 11 specific towns; Ninety percent of Barolo comes from 5 towns Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, and La Morra
· Wines from the Barolo DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) must be aged at least 38 months, 18 of those in wood barrels. The term “Riserva” can be used on the label when the wine has been cellared for at least five years.
So, with the basics out of the way, let’s concentrate on the important stuff. Like, why should you drink it? Barolo is a magical concoction that is high in acid, tannins, and alcohol, sort of like a ying, yang, and ying. Translated, it means a robust, bright, full-bodied wine with layers of complexity. They don’t call Barolo the wine of kings and the king of wines for nothing. Classic descriptors for both aroma and palate are rose, tar, dried cherries, and chocolate. Usually, Barolo needs some years to age to reach its full potential, but a great many Barolo wines are now made to be drunk must sooner
This leads to the next topic…what to eat with it. Baby, pull those roasts, steaks, and pork chops out of the freezer. Anything that reeks of umami or savoriness is going to be able to take on Barolo with no problem. And, don’t stop with meat dishes when trying to figure out what to eat with Barolo. Mushroom risotto, mushroom pizza, and Pasta Bolognese can be successfully paired with it. Too, because of its high acidity, Barolo can be paired well with tomato sauces. I had the most amazing Barolo on Saturday with prawns in a light tomato sauce, and I was swooning.
Live a little on the edge. Next time you’re contemplating a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir to go with that meat dish or pasta dish, try a Barolo instead.
Curious about other famous Nebbiolo wine? See my blog about Barbaresco