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Barolo


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Located due south of Alba and the River Tanaro, Barolo is Piedmont's most famous wine DOCG, renowned for producing Italy's finest red wines from 100% Nebbiolo

Its red wines were originally sweet but in 1840 the then Italian monarchy, the House of Savoy, ordered them to be changed to a dry style. This project was realised by French oenologist Louis Oudart whose experience with Pinot Noir had convinced him of Nebbiolo's potential. The Barolo appellation was formalised in 1966 at around 1700 ha, only a tenth of the size of Burgundy but almost three times as big as neighbouring Barbaresco.

Upgraded to DOCG status in 1980, Barolo comprises two distinct soil types. The first is a Tortonian sandy marl that produces a more feminine style of wine and can be found in the villages of Barolo, La Morra, Cherasco, Verduno, Novello, Roddi and parts of Castiglione Falletto. The second is the older Helvetian sandstone clay that bestows the wines with a more muscular style. This can be found in Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga d'Alba, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour and the other parts of Castiglione Falletto. Made today from the Nebbiolo clones Lampia, Michet & Rosé, Barolo has an exceptional terroir with almost every village perched on its own hill. The climate is continental, with an extended summer and autumn enabling the fickle Nebbiolo to achieve perfect ripeness.

Inspired by the success of modernists such as Elio Altare, there has been pressure in recent years to reduce the ageing requirements for Barolo. This has been mostly driven by new producers to the region, often with no Piedmontese viticultural heritage and armed with their roto-fermentors and French barriques, intent on making a `fruitier', more modern style of wine.

This `modern' style arguably appeals more to the important American market and its scribes, but the traditionalists continue to argue in favour of making Barolo in the classic way. They make the wine in a mix of epoxy-lined cement or stainless-steel cuves followed by extended ageing in large 25hl slavonian barrels (`botte') to gently soften and integrate the tannins. However, even amongst the `traditionalists' there has been a move since the mid-1990s towards using physiologically (rather than polyphenolically) riper fruit, aided by global warming. Both modernist and traditional schools can produce exceptional or disappointing wines.

Recommended Traditionalist producers:
Giacomo Borgogno, Giacomo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa, Elio Grasso, Marcarini, Bartolo Mascarello and Giuseppe Mascarello.

Recommended Modernist producers:
Azelia, Aldo Conterno, Luciano Sandrone, Paolo Scavino and Roberto Voerzio