Barolo is an Italian wine that claims the title of “Wine of Kings and King of Wines” produced in the Cuneo province within the region of Piemonte in Italy.
Barolo is made exclusively from the native Nebbiolo grape, that is said to possess the aromas of cherry, truffles, tar and roses. It is then left to age in huge Slovenian casks for quite a long time. Classic Barolo must age a minimum of three years (at least two in barrel), If subjected to aging of at least five years, the wine can then be labeled a Riserva.
As big, powerful wines, Barolo needs to be matched with foods of similar weight. If paired with light dishes, such as steamed vegetables, the wines will overwhelm the dish and seem excessively tannic and powerful. Therefore Barolo wines should be paired with heavy pastas, red meat, hard cheeses and the such. When paired with these kind of dishes that are high in proteins and fats the tannins will bind to the proteins and come across as softer. Without those proteins in the pairing food the tannins will react with the proteins on the tongue and sides of the mouth accentuating the bitterness and having a drying effect on the palate.
Barolos used to be very tannic (having the plant poly-phenols that cause the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth after consuming unripened fruit or red wine, and they took more than 10 years to soften up. That was at least the wine created by the Frenchman Louis Oudart in the 19th century. Oudart had been hired by the Marchesa of Barolo, who wanted to add some class to her locally produced red wine.
Oudart was so successful in his task that other Piedmontese producers copied the method and a new style of Barolo was created, which is the one that classicists are still making today.
Nonetheless, another style of fermenting has recently arisen, one by which “modernists” cut fermentation times to a maximum of ten days and put the wine in new French small oak barrels. All this controversy has lead to the “Barolo wars”, with “classicists” saying that the resulting wine isn’t even recognizable as Barolo and tastes more of new oak than of wine.
The more prestigious houses however, still reject oak barrels and insist on the traditional method for their wines. These wines are reserved for connoisseurs who make Barolo Italy’s most collected wine, sought after by aficionados in Italy, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, United States and all over the world.
Needless to say that with such an impressive and novelistic background, Barolo is the perfect gift for Christmas. But be aware that the price tag may come as a bit excessive and you should reserve Barolo wine gifts to those who really appreciates big, structured wine.
Still, there are some that are not too expensive. Mauro Veglio for example makes a basic Barolo that sells for around $30. It drinks well when young although 10 years of aging brings out the best in it.
If you want a classic label vineyard you’ll be parting with close to $50. Connoisseurs will recommend that you store them away in a cool cellar for at least 5 even 10 years. Almost any of the vintages from the past 12 years are very good, although you should avoid the 2002’s.