Monday, September 17, 2012

Barolo and Barbaresco… Two great Italian wines from two great wine producing zones

With such a long rich history Italian wines continue evolving and gaining momentum. Over the past decade we’ve seen great quality especially in Piedmont which is in Northern Italy is at the foot of the Alps. It’s still very Mediterranean though… It is the home of a long tradition of fine wine.  Barolo and Barbaresco are Piedmont’s  red wine Grand Cru’s.  Nebbiolo is the grape and essentially along with Sangiovese of Chianti it is Italy’s most noble grape variety.
In the 19th century after adopting French wine making techniques, a modern style of wine making was discovered that became to be known as the world-celebrated “king of wines, the wine of kings”; a delicious, big brick red  dry style with high acidity that promises many years of cellar aging. These days it seems just about every vintage of Barolo and Barbaresco offer excitement.
The interconnection of Piedmont’s renowned wines is the Langhe region. It is the home of both the Barolo and Barbaresco and a place of dramatic interplay of shadows and sun; foggy yet scenic. It’s unique. The temperatures in the day and night often swing mightily. Sometimes the sky is black and sometimes it’s white. Usually you have pockets rain throughout the summer into the fall. The land is myriad of rich clays and easy draining sand all which helps make commanding wines yet with amusing sophistication.

Today’ these Piedmont reds are conveyed in overindulgences. Some suggest a more modern style which minimizes tannins and maximizes the youthful fruit. It is super extracted fruit style with toasty oak.
The others are more traditional… offering powerful structured savory tannins and a more earthy expressive nose.  It’s the whiffs of tar, leather, perfumes of violets and roses. The grip of the velvet tannins that vibrate on the palate, the racy minerality of the wine from this region along with rushing flavors of cherries, vanilla, figs and black licorice. The wine can be very profound and have the propensity for cellaring( 5, 10 years or more!).
What is interesting is that Piedmont, Italy happens to lie at the same latitude of Burgundy, France and they have a similar summer climate and Piedmont is really the only place that Barolo and Barbaresco can grow with wide-ranging success.
These distinctive wines; both made from the Nebbiolo grape in general terms can be thought of this way. The Barolo is the more substantial, tannic and opulent of the two, while Barbaresco is considered more elegant and approachable.

By the way, the foods of the Piedmont that are habitually served with mature Barolo and Barbaresco include many plates made with white truffles or white truffle oil, Porcini mushrooms; cheeses like Bra Dura, Fontina, Ribiole, Toma, and truffle infused cheeses. Also game (especially game birds); and beef braised in red wine.
…Two great wines from two great wine producing zones.