Barolo – “The Wine of Kings and the King of Wines”
A visit to the beautiful Italian region which has given the world the very noble Barolo wine.
Despite the fact that The Bloke and I have always been keen to show our support for the Australian wine industry by consuming as much of it as possible, during a trip to Italy a few years ago our heads were turned just a little. It was during this trip that we discovered Barolo, often referred to as ‘the king of wines’. This refined and elegant wine is known for it’s aromas of tar and roses, it’s ruby red colour which ages to a darker rusty red and it’s capacity to age and improve over years. Barolo, and the equally distinguished Barbaresco, are grown in Piedmont – one of Italy’s most prestigious wine regions which has over 47,000 hectares under vines and produces 250 million litres of wine annually. Seduced by the complex sophistication of this noble wine, my husband vowed to visit the region and learn about it from the ground up.
Piedmont’s position at the foot of the Alps grants it the benefit of cool breezes to regulate the hot summer days, while at the same time protecting it from the worst of the winter winds from the north. Because of this location, the region is often foggy which is where Nebbiolo, the grape which these wine giants are made from, gets it’s name – ‘nebbia’ means ‘fog’.
Barolo wine is produced in the hillside village which gives the wine it’s name. The designated production zone for the wine is small and only eight kilometres wide at it’s widest point. The zone also includes La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and the northern half of Monforte d’Alba and, while several other districts have been added to it in the last century, over 85% of Barolo is still produced in the original five communes.
Our first stop was the tiny commune of La Morra, a major wine growing district which borders the Barolo municipality and where for some time it was actually illegal to cut down a Nebbiolo vine! The village is perched high on a hill with magnificent views of the surrounding regions. There are countless small wine producers all over the region, many of which are represented in the Cantina Communale di La Morra. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and this is the perfect spot to try various Barolo labels if you don’t have the time or means to get to the producers domains.
From there we drove to the commune of Grinzane Cavour and the castle for a spectacular lunch (more about that in coming weeks) before heading to Barolo and the historical cellars of Marchesi di Barolo.
The vineyards here were established over 200 years ago by the Marchese Carlo Tancredi Falletti di Barolo and his wife, Giulia. Their wine was regularly served at important diplomatic and royal events, developing a reputation for it’s excellence. The Marchese and his wife died childless and in 1929 local winemaker Emilio Pietro Abbona acquired the cellars and gradually purchased the estate, piece by piece. The Abbona family still run the estate and it is today presided over by 5th generation winemaker Ernesto Abbona. The Marchesi di Barolo’s cellar holds a cache of over 40,000 bottles of Barolo, with vintages dating back to 1859.
We were able to take a private tour through the winery, including a glimpse in the private Abbona family cellar where some of the worlds most priceless wine is held. Following that we were walked through a tasting of the king of wines – an experience which we enjoyed immensely given a fuller knowledge of this exceptional wine. We were there in late September, vintage time, and just as we were about to leave we were thrilled to find a truck delivering the famed Nebbiolo grapes to the winery. So The Bloke’s wish had been granted – we were able to get very up close and personal with Barolo wine.
Many wine lovers head to Barolo and stay in the region for a few days, driving themselves around and sampling the wonderful wine and food available. If you find the thought of driving in rural Italy a little unnerving a day trip is the answer for you. There are plenty of tour companies who offer group or private tours from either Turin or Asti. You can also hire a driver in Turin to take you to Barolo or catch a train from Turin to Asti in under half an hour to meet up with a tour.
Cantina Communale di La Morra
Via C. Alberto 2 – 12064 La Morra
Tel. +390173509204 – Fax +390173509043
Marchesi di Barolo
Via Roma, 1 (Cantina storica) – 12060 Barolo