A Glass of Tar and Roses Evolves into Something More

Barolo is one of the best red wines in the world.  Its home is northwestern Italy’s Piedmont region.  The distinct character of this great red wine is shaped by the Nebbiolo grapes from which it is made, the soil and microclimate of the particular vineyards in which the grapes grow, and the winemaking know-how of the people who make and age the wines.  Only Barolo is Barolo.

Some tasters compare Barolo to red Burgundy for its exclusivity, elegance, delicacy and complexity.  It offers fresh and dried cherry-red berry fruit, dust, and earthy leather and floral aromas and flavours.  Old-style thin, dry angular Barolos are few and far between nowadays as younger winemakers have moved to riper fruit and gentler techniques.  In the mouth the complex character is given structure by fresh to crisp acidity and plenty of fine ripe grippy tannins.  The long finish is pleasant and is a clue that Barolos can age well.  The best examples will improve for decades.

Because they’re produced in small volume and enjoy superstar status in the fine wine world, Barolos tend to be on the expensive side.  Prices start around $30 and top out in the low three figures.  Economic reality precludes having Barolo as my house red, but I can manage a couple of bottles a month.  At that dosage they still brighten my mood.  I try to pick up a handful of doozies every year to age in my cellar.  If you don’t feel ready to take the plunge at those prices, Nebbiolo-based reds from vineyards elsewhere in the Langhe region offer comparable high-quality bottlings for $20 to $30.  Travaglini Gattinara ($29.95), Enrico Serafino Barbaresco ($20.75) and Fontanafredda Ebbio Langhe Nebbiolo ($19.95) are good widely-available examples.

Last November at the 19th edition of the Italian Wine Fair in Toronto (co-ordinated by the Italian Trade Commission) I tasted a couple of dozen Barolos which are or will be available in Canada.  There wasn’t a clunker in the bunch.  Here are a few of my favourites.

Manfredi Barolo DOCG Patrizi 2009 (a bargain at $29.95, score 91) has pungent earthy notes with fresh and dried red berry fruit.  The fine grippy tannins and fresh acidity structure the wine through an astringent, well-fruited long finish.

Terre Moriglio Tenuta Carretta Malgrà Barolo DOCG “Cascina Ferrero” 2009 ($39.95, score 91) features intense deep dusty fresh and dried cherry and rose petal aromas and flavours.  It’s fresh, velvety and grippy in the mouth with elegant fruit through an astringent fruited finish with a pleasant bitter note.

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG 2010 ($59.95, score 91+) has a deep rich ripe nose with tar and dust notes, deep cherry fruit, and sweet spice.  Fine firm ripe tannins and fresh acidity frame very rich ripe fruit that linger long on the palate.

Castello di Verduno Barolo DOCG 2006 ($79.95, score 92) is a garnet-tinged ruby wine.  It’s fully mature with a complex harmonious nose of bright dried and fresh cherry fruit, tar, and a sweet spicy floral note.  In the mouth grippy velvet tannins, fresh acidity, earthy spicy flavours and mature fruit dance together through a long satisfying finish.

For more information about Barolo and other Italian wines log on to www.italytrade.com

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About iwolkoff

Irvin Wolkoff is a psychiatrist and wine journalist who has been a wine enthusiast and collector since his university days.
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