The Villages of Barolo and Barbaresco

Prior to buying Kerin O’Keefe’s book, Barolo and Barbaresco, The King and Queen of Italian Wine, I had no idea there are multiple villages that make up the Barolo and Barbaresco wine regions.

Barolo soil types

Soils found in different communes of Barolo wine region.

There are 11 villages in Barolo, and the first five listed below produce the majority of Barolo.

  1. Barolo
  2. Castiglione Falletto
  3. Monforte d’Alba
  4. Serralunga d’Alba
  5. La Morra
  6. Cherasco
  7. Verduno
  8. Roddi
  9. Grinzane Cavour
  10. Diano d’Alba
  11. Novello

There are 3 villages in Barbaresco:

  1. Barbaresco
  2. Neive
  3. Treiso

Although there are microclimates within the different zones in Barolo and Barbaresco, generally, when describing them, you’ll notice that words tend to be more masculine for the former and feminine for the latter. Hence, you’ll see them referred to as the King and Queen of Italian wines, respectively.

Barolo villages

Barolo has a longer growing season, while the climate is milder in Barbaresco. The soil in Barbaresco also has more nutrients. DOCG stipulates that Barolo must be aged for at least 38 months, of which at least 18 months must be in chestnut or oak barrels. Barbaresco must be aged for at least two years, and at least 9 months of that must be in wood.

Barbaresco communes

You’ll also see Riserva, which indicates a very good year. For a Riserva wine, Barolo producers must age the wine for five years prior to release, while it’s four years for Barbaresco Riservas.

My birthday is next week and I have a 2003 Barolo from Anselma Giacomo located in Serralunga d’Alba I’ve been waiting to enjoy! 2003 was a hot year, so I’m curious to taste it. So excited!

Piedmont, home of the King and Queen of Italian Wine

Every year, the Vancouver International Wine Festival has a focus country where in the tasting room, that country gets more booths, and therefore more wines poured from that region. The focus in 2016 was Italy. That was when hubby and I discovered Barolo and it was love at first sip.

Light in colour, like a Pinot Noir, but with the full body and punch of a bold Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. Packed with tannins and flavour, it is a food wine and deliciously decadent.

We enjoy Barolo so much that later that year during the holidays, we planned a week long trip to Piedmont, Italy home of Barolo and Barbaresco, respectively the king and queen of Italian wine.

Where is Piedmont?

Located in Northwest Italy, Piedmont means “foot of the mountain.” You’ll also see it written the Italian way, Piemonte.

Barolo and Barbaresco are DOCGs in Piedmont, Italy and both wines are made with 100% Nebbiolo. More specifically, they are located in the Langhe region (Langa in Italian).

Where is the Langhe in Piedmont?

The Langhe is located in southern Piedmont. This gorgeous hilly area, along with Monferrato and Roero, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2014.

View from Pelissero

View from Pelissero, in the village of Treiso in Barbaresco. 

Major cities in Piedmont include Turin, Asti, Bra, and Alba, just to name a few. Our home base this week was Alba, conveniently situated between Barolo and Barbaresco.

Langa, Piemonte

Map from the book Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine by Kerin O’Keefe.

Do they make anything else in Piedmont?

They sure do. There are no IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines in Piedmont, which allows grapes to be sourced from anywhere in Italy. There are 45 DOCs and 15 DOCGs, stricter and strictest, respectively, in terms of what is allowed in the wine and where the grapes are sourced.

What is grown in the Langhe? 

Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetta, Moscato Bianco are the most widely planted. Pelaverga, Nascetta, Freisa, and Favorita follow (I haven’t tried the first two). International varieties Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown here, albeit a small proportion; they fall under the Langhe DOC appellation.

Barolo

The village of Barolo, as seen from Cascina Boschetti.

We were in Langa for a week and we barely scraped what is available there. Do I plan on returning? Absolutely. It was such a pleasant trip, having for the most part met the owners and winemakers, who each have fascinating and interesting stories of their own.

Visit next week as I cover the villages that make up the DOCGs of Barolo and Barbaresco. In the meantime, let me know what your thoughts are on the wines from this part of Italy. Are you a fan? What do you think of the price point Barolo and Nebbiolo demand? — This, also, to be covered in a future post!

Vermentino, a Tasty Italian White

Until last month, I didn’t know anything about Vermentino. Now because at work, we have these limited releases wine kits that include a Vermentino in the lineup, I had to try one. So I tried a commercial equivalent.

vermetino-notes

This goes for $25 before tax at the BC Liquor Store.

It was really tasty and a good balance between a Sauv Blanc and Pinot Grigio. I sometimes find the former too tart and with citrus and green apple dominating, while the latter I sometimes find it too… easy to drink. Anyway, I’m so glad I’ve been exposed to this because it offers something in between. With flavours of white peach, lime, almond, and green apple, it’s delicate and refreshing enough to enjoy on its own, however, offers enough robustness to complement dishes.

Have you tried Vermentino? What are your thoughts?

 

An Intro to Italian Wine Labels

From what you smell and taste to the rules of each wine region, you’re relying on your memory to help you appreciate and understand what it is you’re enjoying. You use what you remember and what you know to describe what you’re seeing, smelling and tasting, and even how the wine makes you feel. Simply, when it comes to understanding the world of wine, it’s memorization.

studying wine

The appreciation and understanding of wine is highly reliant on your memory.

I’ve mentioned that Italy is hard. Even though I can say I haven’t visited the whole country, I have no excuse when it comes to knowing what to expect because it’s all memorization. The problem is, there’s a lot to remember! If you’re trying to understand Italian wine labels, learn the wine laws first before trying to remember the regions because some parts are actually confusing (case in point).

Intro to Italian Wine Laws

DOC Italian wine

Two different bottles. Sometimes the relevant info is found on the back label such as on the bottle on the right.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica – Grapes can be sourced from a larger area rather than a restricted one like the DOC or DOCG wines below. You’ll find a lot of wines from the south with this on the labels since there aren’t many DOC or DOCGs there.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – When you see this on the label, you’ll know that it comes from the specified area that allow only certain varietals and a minimum alcohol level. Depending on the area, there could also be regulations regarding wine making methods and minimum aging.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantia (DOCG) – Has all the requirements of Denominazione di Origine Controllata, but also must be bottled in the production region. These wines may also undergo tasting by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Simple right? Think you got it? There’s just a bit more to Italian wine laws (Classico, Riserva, Passito), but I’ll save that for next week’s post.

Let’s Talk Chianti

Italy was one of the hardest countries for me when studying WSET 3. The regions, the grapes. Ack! The only way to get better or recall what I learned is to keep referring to my book (boring), but what’s more effective (and quite enjoyable) is actually drinking wine.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a Chianti in bed. Have you heard of Sangiovese? That’s the main varietal you’ll find in this wine. In Italy, unlike say here in Canada or the States, and like in France, the wines are referenced by the region it’s from, not the grapes they’re made with. Chianti’s don’t have to be 100% Sangiovese, though. Wines here can have up to 20% other varietals in the blend.

Chianti Classico
Take me to Tuscany!

Where is Chianti?

You must’ve heard Tuscany… in central Italy.

Tuscany wine region

Tuscany in red. Image from Wikipedia

This famous beautiful region is where you’ll find Chianti. The major nearby city is Florence. Speaking of Tuscany, you must have heard of Super Tuscan wines! But do you know what they are.

What’s a Super Tuscan?

By now, I’m sure you figured out that it’s wine from Tuscany. But what makes it “super?” If a wine contains other grapes like the Bordeaux ones Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, then it’s considered a Super Tuscan. The maritime climate in Tuscany is ideal for these Bordeaux varietals.

How did French grapes make their way to Italy?

In response to the low quality wine that was being produced in Tuscany in the 70s, producers started making wine that wasn’t within the Italian wine laws. That is they didn’t follow the rules that dictated what varieties can go in the wine and therefore couldn’t label them as Chianti DOC or DOCG (more about these acronyms next week). Indeed, the wines were great, and still are I’m told. I can’t say for myself since I don’t think I’ve ever had a Super Tuscan. Have you had one? What did you think? And if you’ve had both Chianti and Super Tuscan, which do you prefer? 

Looks like I need to go buy myself a bottle of Super Tuscan.

Italy by Region

Phew! TGIF! It has been a looooong week. With moving this week, feeling under the weather and wine studies, not to mention working full-time, this wine lover’s pooped. I’m struggling right now with how to make this post interesting. It’s one of those nights, one of those weeks, so please forgive me.

As previously mentioned, I’m finding memorizing Italy a bit difficult. What I love about it though is that you’ll find vineyards throughout the whole country.

Rome

Pictured is Rome, Italy. In Lazio, just outside the Eternal City is Frascati DOC.

Each geographical region has areas under vines:

Northwest Italy

  1. Piemonte
  2. Lombardy
  3. Liguria

Northeast Italy

  1. Trentino-Alto Adige
  2. Friuli-Venezia Giulia
  3. Veneto

Central Italy

  1. Emilia-Romagna
  2. Tuscany
  3. Marche
  4. Umbria
  5. Lazio
  6. Abruzzo
  7. Molise

The South and Islands

  1. Campania
  2. Puglia
  3. Basilicata
  4. Calabria
  5. Sicily
  6. Sardinia

Guess who will be hard at work memorizing these and more this weekend?

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You’ve probably had this Italian Wine

If you’re a regular wine drinker, I’m probably right. I know I had a glass or two or three or more of this before I started taking wine seriously. According to the WSET 3 book, it’s the second most important red wine DOC (Italian designation that specifies geographical area, grape varieties and minimum alcohol level. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata).

You probably had Valpolicella made in the Veneto region, which is located in Northeast Italy, the same region where you’ll find the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, and the magical city of Venice.

It’s mainly made of the Corvina varietal, and can also contain Rondinella and Molinara among other grapes that are permitted. If you’ve ever had Valpolicella Classico DOC, then you had some of the very best Valpolicellas.

Red grapes in Valpolicella

Valpolicella DOC wines only contain red grapes, the principal one being Corvina. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

You may not have had Amarone della Velpolicella DOC, Recioto della Valpolicella DOC or Ripasso della Valpolicella DOC wine. All these DOCs use semi dried grapes but their end result are different. Here’s what I learned in class because the way the book explained it, frankly, sucks.

Valpolicella Classico DOC is partially made from semi-dried grapes.

Amarone della Valpolicella DOC is completely made with semi-dried grapes.

Recioto della Valpolicella DOC is made completely with semi-dried grapes as well, however, fermentation is stopped early producing a full-bodied, sweet red wine.

Lastly, Ripasso della Valpolicella DOC wine is made by mixing the basic Valpolicella wine with the unpressed skins of the Amarone della Valpolicella or Recioto della Valpolicella. Basically, the wine will be refermented by doing this.

Because the teacher put me on the spot when he asked me about this very topic, I’ll always remember this. If what you do doesn’t make you step outside your comfort zone, you’re not improving.