For those who are unaware of the wine, Barolo is one of the great Italian red wines and it is primarily produced in the Italian region of Piedmont. Like many great wines it falls under the regulations of the DOC, however it is classed as a DOCG wine, which means that it is considered to be one of the highest quality wines produced in Italy.
Made using the Nebbiolo grape it is produced in many areas in the Piedmont region. Barolo is perhaps the most famous, as well as being the area that lends the wine its name, however it is also produced in Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d’Alba in addition to a wide range of other smaller areas and communes, all of who add their own signature stamps to their versions of the wine.
Growth of the Nebbiolo grape is well-regulated and there are only a few areas where the grape can be cultivated to the standards needed to produce good Barolo wine. The hills where the vineyards are located must have suitable slopes and angles to ensure the grape grows properly. Furthermore, the soil must have a calcareous-clay definition to get the best possible results.
When it comes to the wine itself, Barolo is an extremely rich red that is defined by aromas of roses and tar. It is also a wine that arguably increases in quality the longer it ages, though in many cases this will come down to individual tastes rather than be an objective measure of the quality of the wine. If allowed to age it will take on a rusty red hue and may even be labelled as a Riserva if aged for five years before its release by the winery.
This is hardly a new phenomenon and traditional Barolos are known to have taken upwards of a decade before they softened to the point where they are ready for consumption. As a reaction to this, many winemakers started to experiment with the way that Barolo is produced in an effort to cut down the time it takes to create the wine and appeal to more international tastes. This meant lowering the amount of time the wine is fermented and aging it in French oak barriques, which are small barrels.
This gave rise to what has become known as the Barolo Wars, wherein traditionalists argued that the wines produced using this method could not truly be classes as Barolo as they did not undergo the proper fermentation and aging processes. The end product actually tastes fruitier than a traditional Barolo, with many arguing that it also develops a hint of oak as a result of the barrels used to age it.
The controversy raged for years and there are still factions that consider Barolos made using the new methods to not really be true Barolos. Regardless, both types are regulated by the DOC and both offer a remarkable range of textures and tastes that are sure to invigorate the taste buds of practically any taster.
As with most Italian wines, Barolo is best experienced when paired with a great dish. After all, wine is made to be consumed in moderation and should be savoured as far as possible rather than simply drunk and forgotten about.
As such, there are a number of foods that really bring out the most in Barolo, and vice-versa, and we encourage any connoisseur to try a nice glass of Barolo with any of the following dishes to truly find out why the drink is amongst the most popular in its native Italy:
Feathered Game – Due to its rich texture you will find that Barolo goes well with most meaty dishes, but it matches up with feathered game particularly well. Birds such as pheasant, wild duck and pigeon can all act as a great accompaniment to the wine and it is certainly worth reaching outside of your comfort zone when it comes to the meats that you eat in an effort to truly appreciate the quality of the wine that you are enjoying.
Beef, Veal of Fillet Steaks – While the wine goes extremely well with white meats, as mentioned previously, its rich textures ensure that it is a great accompaniment to red meat dishes as well.
Locals often take it with raw beef or veal that has been prepared as a local delicacy, though this might be something of a risky meal for those who are unfamiliar with the preparation methods. However, if you do happen to find yourself in the Piedmont region it is definitely worth seeking out this particular dish.
Furthermore the wine is also excellent for braising beef, meaning it can be enjoyed both as a drink and as part of the dish itself.
Finally, a good grilled fillet steak is also an excellent meal to enjoy with a good Barolo, as the textures of the drink will easily complement the rich taste of the steak.
Cheese – Note here that we are referring to particular types of cheeses, as the wine does not go well with more powerful cheeses, which quickly overpower its rich but delicate taste. Instead, be sure to try it with milder cheeses such as grana padano and robiolo to get the most out of the drink. This way you can be sure the cheese will complement the Barolo rather than overpowering it to the point where you can no longer taste or enjoy it. Some have also claimed that goats’ and sheep cheese are also suitable, though this would be a slightly more risky option and is something that the experimental may want to give a try.
Always remember when looking to pair a Barolo up with any type of food that it is a delicate drink despite its rich textures, which means that it can be overpowered by richer foods. Furthermore, care must be taken in regards to the type of Barolo you have purchased as those created using the traditional methods will pair with some foods differently than those produced using the more modern methods.