For those not yet familiar with Barolo, it is 1) a village, 2) a small wine region in Piedmont in northwest Italy, and most importantly 3) one of the world’s most sought after wines. The Barolo DOCG (Italy’s highest level of certification) was one of the first four to be granted in Italy.
It is made from the Nebbiolo grape, a variety nearly exclusively grown in this region, which can produce very complex, age worthy wines.
Wine has been made here for centuries and there are strong traditions that come with Barolo production. In recent years younger wine makers have experimented with using small French oak barrels, changing maceration (skin contact) time, and producing some very special Cru (important single vineyard wines). Suffice it to say, these experiments have stirred up a bit of controversy between the traditionalists and the new guard. Luckily for us, both camps are making outstanding wines!
This happens to be one of our favorite places to visit in Italy and we’d like to share our Insider’s Short List of Favorite Barolo Wines with you. We have picked grapes in the area during two harvest seasons and we just keep coming back.
We also love the stories associated with wine. We hope you enjoy the reasons why these have become some of our favorites.
You can’t go wrong if you choose any of these wines:
They say you always remember your first love. For us, it was Poderi Aldo Conterno. We were introduced to the wines by Franco Conterno at a tasting at Jimmy’s, an outstanding Italian grocery store in Dallas. Franco is one of three brothers, sons of Aldo, who now own and run the winery. Several years after that Dallas meeting we had the privilege of being hosted by Franco at a tasting at the winery in the middle of the Bussia Cru near Monforte. They produce an “entry level” Bussia Barolo, three single vineyard labels, Cicala, Colonnello, and Romirasco, and in the best years, a riserva called Grand Bussia. We have enjoyed many bottles and vintages over the years and it’s still one of our favorites. The clay soils of the Bussia produce a wine with aromas of cherry and red berries, tar, licorice, and leather. We love these Barolo wines!
On the first night of our first visit to Barolo we were served a bottle of Marcarini Lasarin during dinner at La Cantinetta in Barolo. The Lasarin can be described as a “baby Barolo” made from Nebbiolo grapes macerated and aged for shorter periods than a DOCG Barolo. Langhe Nebbiolo are fresher tasting and made to be consumed young and made by most of the Barolo producers. Because of their freshness they are a good choice to pair with many foods and are much more economical than their big brothers. Marcarini makes two single cru Barolos. La Serra is lighter and more elegant with nice minerality complimenting red fruits. The Brunate is a bolder expression with darker fruits and stronger tannins. Both are gorgeous! Their cantina and tasting room are both in La Morra and are recommended stops when you visit the area. We recommend stopping in for a tasting in our suggested 4 day Barolo wine tour itinerary.
Our first visit to Barolo in 2014 happened to coincide with the release of the great 2010 vintage, one of the best Barolo vintages. What that fortunately meant for us was the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo was sponsoring a release party. For €15 you were given a glass and access to over 100 open bottles of Barolo 2010! We tried many wines over several hours and picked our favorites. Betsy’s was the Massolino from Serralunga. We enjoy the rich, balanced fruits, floral, and baking spice notes of this wine. They also produce four crus which you can taste in their very elegant tasting room in Serralunga.
The unassuming door on this winery in the heart of the village of Barolo is only marked by a sign with a hand painted frog. Behind that door lies one of most highly regarded and traditional wineries in all of the Barolo region. Bartolo Mascarello Barolo wines are made by blending all their grapes from various vineyards into a single Barolo bottling each year. Aging only in large, neutral Slavonian oak barrels, the wines do not have any of the characteristic vanilla flavors of the smaller French barrels favored by some newer wine makers. Making some of his wine even more valuable are the hand painted and designed labels. His daughter Maria Teresa now runs the show with the same traditions as her father. The winery has no website, does no marketing, and it helps to have a local expert call to reserve a tasting for you. It is worth the effort if you can get in!
If you have read any of our blogs about Barolo or Piedmont you know about our favorite wine shop in the area, La Vite Turchese. On one of our first visits to the shop, Stefano introduced us to the wines of Enrico Rivetto. During our first year picking grapes in the area we got to meet the wine maker when he led a tour and tasting at his winery. This is a wine maker who is passionate about his craft! He loves experimenting with different techniques including using clay amphora in the cellar. Most importantly he is committed to biodynamic farming and returning the vineyard back to a more natural state. He has planted many trees around the vineyard, grows herbs among the vines, and has even given up some precious land that previously produced grapes to plant ancient wheat strains to encourage biodiversity in his vineyard. We highly recommend all of his wines which includes a sparkling made from the Nebbiolo grape!
Another wine we were introduced to at Jimmy’s was Vietti Barolo. We always have a bottle or two of theirs in our cellar and we were excited to visit the winery in Castiglione Falletto during a trip in 2016. We were greeted by Elena, the wife of Mario Vietti’s grandson. Mario was the patriarch of the family and started making the first Vietti wines in 1919. Elena took us on a tour of the cellar, told us the history of this winery, showed us some of the original artwork for the labels, and finally took us back up to the tasting room. She is very proud of her family’s history and their wine. We loved hearing her stories and tasting a lot of wine! What was supposed to be a 45-minute tour turned into a nearly three-hour visit! The only reason we left was to make our next tasting, which we had made for what we thought was safely later in the day!
We have enjoyed some bottles of Schiavenza we bought at Jimmy’s over the years but our first visit to the cantina in Serralunga was a happy coincidence. We had actually finished our tasting at Rivetto and came into Serralunga for lunch. As we came into town we noticed a nice looking restaurant with a lovely view over the vines. It was after we were seated on the terrace that we realized the restaurant was run by the small family run winery of Schiavenza. The restaurant serves handcrafted, traditional Langhe dishes and features the family’s wines. It is one of our favorite spots in the whole area to eat!
There are so many more bottles we could share with you. Every time we visit this area we discover a new one! And we haven’t even talked about the Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto, Chinato, and more that you can discover there as well! If you are a red wine lover you owe it to yourself to visit the Barolo wine region. We can help with that! We’d love to share some of our favorite spots in Barolo. Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips in Europe. You can always reach Betsy at email@example.com. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!
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