As I was gearing up to launch the business I decided to take a little “research” trip to the home of one of my favourite wines in the world; Barolo.
Located in Northern Italy in the Piedmont region, about an hour’s drive south of Turin, the village of Barolo is surrounded by stunning views of the rolling Alpine foothills. The 10th century castle in the centre of the village and the views of vineyards from horizon to horizon mean you’d be hard pressed to find a better view to sample local produce.
Having parked and locked the car for the foreseeable future I wandered into Hotel Barolo, which adjoins the oldest producer in the region; the Brezza estate. The estate has been operating in its current form since 1885 and was the first port of call for the following morning.
An 11am start seemed the optimum compromise between making the most of the day and having to worry about my enthusiasm for wine. A tour of the winery commenced followed by a tasting of six wines, spanning the key red grapes from the region; Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera, as well as a Chardonnay.
Whilst Barolo, made from the Nebbiolo grape, is the poster child for the region the Dolcetto and Barbera grape should by no means be discounted or ignored.
Dolcetto is the “everyday” grape of the region, a great wine for a hot summer’s afternoon or if you fancy something a little lighter with lunch. It’s wonderfully fruity, with medium tannins and just enough acidity to give it the refreshing, easy drinking style needed. Whilst not particularly well suited to ageing it does retain enough complexity within the black fruits, often with hints of liquorice included, to keep it interesting without having to think about it too much.
Barbera is Dolcetto’s more acidic brother, again perfect for accompanying lunch or if the occasion doesn’t quite warrant the expense of a Barolo. It shares the same dark fruit flavours as the Dolcetto but has slightly smoother, milder tannins. However, where Barbera really comes into its own is in its acidity. The high acid present in the wine makes it perfect for pairing with a wide range of foods and again provides the refreshing edge required on a sunny September afternoon.
And finally Nebbiolo, the man of the hour. All wines from the region branded as Barolo must be one hundred percent Nebbiolo grape and aged for a minimum of thirty-eight months, eighteen of which must be in oak. It is a slightly deceptive grape in that it has light colouring with a delicate nose, before hitting you with high tannins and a great complexity of red fruits and earthy, mushroom notes on the palette. In the past you’d be advised to leave Barolo to age far beyond its thirty-eight months, to let the tannins soften but in recent years the more widespread use of smaller oak barrels has meant more recent vintages can be opened straight away.
As with all wines regardless of the number of producers present in a region, using the same varietals, there are rarely two wines alike. So I had little choice than to wander the town for the rest of the day, tasting room to tasting room, pulling out the credit card with greater ease every time….
In the next few months we’ll have two Barolos as part of our Gold Rich and Powerful range, a 2011 Terre di Valgrande Barolo DOCG and a 2011 Barolo Alasia. The Alasia in particular is a great example of Barolo, powerful notes of plum, leather and smoke with ripe tannins and lots of savoury notes, great for a winter’s evening.
The next day took me further afield, out to the neighbouring appellations of Barbaresco and Roero but I’ll leave that for another time.