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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Barolo or Barbaresco?

Piedmont - Italy.
The Langhe region of Piedmont in Italy, is the home of both Barolo and Barbaresco wines.
To clear a misconception , as such,  Barolo is a beautiful small hamlet in the heart of Piedmont, and Barbarseco is a comune (municipality) in the province of Cuneo in the Langhe region of Piedmont.
The Barbarseco zone lies to the northeast of the city of Alba, whereas the Barolo zone lies a bit further away from Alba to the southwest.

Barbarescco and Barolo wines are two classic wines of the highest quality, both of which are classified DOCG and are produced from 100% Nebbiolo grapes under very strict rules.
Nebbiolo grape cluster.

Although grown in various regions in Italy outside these zones, as well as in various parts of the world, Nebbiolo produce wines that rarely if ever attain the special attributes and intensity of Barolo or Barbaresco. Nebbiolo is a difficult grape variety to grow successfully for the production of wine, outside its established terroir of the Langhe. It flowers early and ripens late, which mean that climatic conditions must be perfect for it. Cool weather throughout the growing season, such as that experienced in 2004, which has been one of the very best vintage years in recent years for these two wines,  allow for excellent ripening and ideal conditions to preserve the grapes natural acidity. Frost in Spring, or cold and wet weather at harvest time creates major problems for this grape variety as well as does hot weather conditions and excessive temperatures over 25 deg. C. in Summer.

The attributes of these two wines include spectacular flavour and aroma nuances, a very long and persisting palate, great longevity as the wines are best consumed between 10 and 30 years of age in good vintages, and an affinity for good food -primarily braised beef; roast beef and lamb; game and game birds; white truffles; porcini mushrooms and strong cheese such as Fontina, Boschetto al Tartufo, Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Regiano and Pecorino-Romano.

Both Barolo and Barbaresco wines, although they might be released for sale between three and five years from the vintage year, are not ready to be drunk for at least ten years (always from the vintage year) due to their strong tannins, complexity and body. Both these wines need extensive airing and breathing prior to serving, in order to mellow and evolve their best attributes. Decanting is also recommended as well as the correct wine glasses.

Barbaresco was essentially created as a "place-of-origin" wine name in the later part of the 19th century, when producers of Barolo refused to extend their name to include the grapes from what is now known as the Barbaresco zone. So far as production is concerned there are about one-third Barbaresco as much as Barolo, as the vineyard culitivation area of the Barolo zone is much larger than that of Barbaresco. The main towns of Barolo through which the Nebbiolo is cultivated and the wine made are: Bardo, Castiglione, Falletto, Diano, d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d'Alba. Novello, Roddi and Serralunga d'Alba.
Serralunga d'Alba produce the most fuller and concentrated Barolos that are less approachable in youth, whereas on the other hand the wines of La Morra are the more delicate and supple. The others fall somewhere in between but they are all superlative.  In Barbarseco the famous towns are Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso. The soils are more like those of la Morra than those of Serralunga, but nevertheless some top producers have produced Barbarescos that are at par with those of Barolo in power and longevity. The producer is therefore an important factor to considfer when chosing a Barolo as against a Barbaresco.

There are certain distinctions between the two wines, but in a blind tasting it is difficult to tell due to the different subzones and terroir of the Langhe regions which diminsihes these distinctions at the vineyard. Barolos are normally released after three years from vintage and Barbarescos a minimum of 2 years. For a Riserva Barolo, the aging time is 5 years from vintage, and for a Riserva Barbaresco the requirement is 4 years. Both will not have matured fully before at least 10 years from the vintage date. As one can see these are highly complex wines, but once mature they are exceptional. Barolo has been dubbed as the "King of Wines"many years ago and this title has stuck even to this day, thus giving this wine a worldwide regal identity among premium and prestigious wines. But then again, if Barbaresco is not the king, it is certainly the crown prince. In general  a Barbaresco is more approachable than Barolo in youth, as the tannins of the former are lighter, and can reach their peak within ten years, whereas Barolos need more.

Good recent, vintage years for Barolo and Barbaresco are 2006, 2004,  2001, 1998 and 1996.

Top producers are:
For both Barolo and Barbaresco: BRUNO GIACOSA .

Barolo: Domenico Clerico; Giacomo Borgogno; Luciano Sandrone; Paolo Scavino.

Barbaresco: Ceretto; Pio Cesare; Angelo Gaja; Fontanabianca, and others.

Both Barolo and Barbaresco offer a thrilling experience in premium wine like no other. They are unique not only as wines but also as they come from the only region on earth where Nebbiolo can be cultivated and grown successfully and to perfection.