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Barolo Wine Tours

by Dec 11, 20170 comments

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Barolo Briefing – A Classic Italian Wine Tour Through Piedmont

In this guide, we are going to look at what is probably the most influential wine producing region in Italy.

Piedmont is the home of Barolo, and possibly the most renowned of all Italian red wines.

A challenging, full bodied wine, that for many is the pinnacle of the Italian winemaking industry.

What is Barolo Like?

The simple answer here, is that Barolo is like Barolo. It is an entirely unique wine. Heralded by many as the best of Italian red wines.

Barolo is a big wine, a challenging wine, with an incredibly full body. This is not a wine that you sip on a sunny afternoon. This is a wine that screams out to accompany rich meat dishes.

The bouquet is earthy, with the grape at the fore. Undertones of spice, with a definite influence of alcohol.

The bouquet alone is challenging. Color wise, this is a very dark wine, darker even than Claret.

When it comes to how Barolo hits the palate, we come to realize that the heavy bouquet pales into insignificance.

Most people who have never drunk Barolo before will wince at the first sip. This is not an easy wine to drink. Instead, it is to be appreciated for its complexity.

You can taste those sun blasted hillsides, and the thirst of the grape, as the wine dry’s your mouth, with its heavily tannin delivery.

This is what makes Barolo such a great wine to eat with red meat. The dryness clears the palate by sucking up the juices and fat of the meat. Readying your taste buds for the next tender morsel.

Wines
Vineyards
Wine grape varieties

Where is Barolo from?

Barolo is produced in the Piedmont area of Italy. Although there are a number of surrounding areas that also produce Barolo.

If we were to extend the Barolo region outside of Piedmont, we would have to include the locales of Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and parts of the communes of Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Novello, Roddi, and Verduno.

However, for the purpose of this guide, we are going to stick to the main, central Barolo production zone, which is Piedmont. This is by far the largest Barolo producing region.

Something that all Barolo producing areas share, is that the grapes themselves must be grown on a hillside.

Indeed, no wine that is made from grapes that are not grown on a hillside, can carry the name Barolo. This is set down in Italian wine production codes.

The full code is that the grape must be grown on a sunny hillside. Never in a humid area, never in a valley. In these codes we find the real secret of Barolo.

The grape is grown in direct sunlight, but in soil that always drains rainwater away, and has very low humidity.

This produces a tough, dense grape with less inherent sweetness. The perfect starting point for one of the most robust wines in the world.

Vineyards
Breweries
Alcohol and Distilleries

Why is Barolo a Famous Italian Wine?

Barolo was first produced in the Piedmont region of Italy in 1836. Interestingly, Barolo was originally a sweet wine.

It is hard to imagine how Barolo went from being a sweet wine, to the audaciously dry wine it is today.

Although Barolo has always been a popular wine, it really came under the public eye in the 1970s, when several prominent producers decided to make Barolo a more consumer friendly wine.

They wanted a wine that was less challenging, as well as quicker and cheaper to produce. This meant changing the way that the wine is made. This lead to what has come to be called the “Barolo Wars”.

During this time, wineries were involved in legal actions and government lobbying on both sides.

Eventually, the pro-consumer body won out, and this resulted in the Barolo we see on mass sale today.

How to Get to the Barolo Region

Getting to Piedmont to begin a Barolo tour is very easy. The City of Turin is the region capital, and Turin International Airport is served by dozens of European carriers, as well as connecting out to international air routes.

Road travel is also very easy. Just head for Turin on one of the many national highways that lead to and from the city.

Indeed, Piedmont is a great destination for visitors from adjacent countries such as France, as it is very close to the border.

Where to Stay in the Barolo Region

There really is only one logical place to stay if you want to take in a wine tour of the Barolo producing area. You should stay in the City of Turin.

Turin is located at the base of the Alps mountain range, and has had a prominent place in Italian history for hundreds of years. This is a historic city in every sense, with plenty to explore outside of wine touring.

Best Barolo Vineyards to Visit

Choosing the best of the Barolo wineries to visit is actually not as difficult as other regions. Simply because Barolo production is much lower, with less wineries producing it.

Here are three very good choices:

Villa Tiboldi

Although this winery is a little off the beaten track, it is well worth the effort of visiting.

This is a full agrotourism experience, with the whole production facility open to the public.

The Barolo tasting experience is incredible, with different vintages being paired with their perfect food.

You can learn all you need to know about Barolo in one day at this winery.

Gian Paolo Manzone

This is a much more laid back affair than our previous selection.

This is a small man and wife operated winery, that is known for producing pure quality Barolo.

The accommodation is not exactly five star, but the welcome is.

Sobrero

This is a winery that no Barolo tour should overlook.

Sobrero is amongst the leaders in Barolo production, especially the newer vintages that have become very popular across Europe in recent years.

We also recommend you try its Nebbiolo, a Barolo like wine of their own vintage, entirely unique.

Classic Barolo Wines

Unfortunately, classic Barolo wines are no longer produced. Ever since the Barolo Wars, wineries have switched their production methods to the newer, cheaper to produce wines.

Classic Barolo is still available; you need to look for any Barolo that was bottled before 1970.

However, it is getting scarce and changes hands for very high prices. If you can afford it, try a bottle for a little taste of wine history.

Modern Barolo Wines

After the Barolo Wars of the 70s and 80s, Barolo changed. The production methods switch to using smaller casks, and only ageing the wine in the cask for a few days, and then bottling it an allowing it to age in the bottle.

This increased production capacity, but more importantly for consumers, it resulted in a much less challenging wine, with less body, bouquet and flavor.

That’s not to say that all modern Barolo wines are not as good as the classic Barolo of old.
Some are very good indeed. Every bottle of Barolo you see for sale is most likely a modern Barolo.

Most of the classic vintages form pre-1970 have been snapped up and laid down by large companies for resale at inflated prices to those who can afford it.

Barolo in Conclusion

If you appreciate wine, and are up for the task of tackling one of the most famous, yet incredibly challenging wines in the world, then a tour of Piedmont could be for you.

With its amazing natural environment, and hidden secrets across every hilltop, this would be a great place to visit without the Barolo.

Add to Piedmont the fact you can see one of the most incredible wines in the world being produced, and taste some of the best vintages, and Piedmont is a fantastic place to visit.

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Author

Mac Wheeler

Mac Wheeler

Wine Writer

Mac is an avid traveller, who spends many months of the year wandering the world with a laptop and a suitcase. He has been a wine lover for over 30 years, and has a fondness for Italian reds, although don’t ask his opinion on the Barolo Wars. On his travels he has tasted a great many wines. Some good, some bad, and some that should never have been sold for human consumption.

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