BAROLO VS BARBARESCO
So what is the difference between Barolo and Barbaresco and why is Barolo more famous? Let’s start by saying that they are both wines named after the appellation/region made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes.
Barolo as you know, is called the “King of Wines and the Wine of the Kings”. Barolo was first thought to be invented in the mid 1800’s with the help of Marquis Juliet Colbert, Camillo Benso (Count of Cavour) and fellow important figures like French oenologist, Alexandre-Pierre Oudart. It was a huge success with the Savoy Royal family who resided in Turin (Italy’s first capital) at the time. This longer history gave Barolo a certain prestige. Also grown in ancient soils, Barolos especially from the Eastern side of the appellation are known for being typically austere and structured. Legally Barolo must come from any of the 11 villages within the appellation and made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes coming from the best Southern exposures. There are numerous regulations wineries must follow in order to obtain the DOCG status of Barolo. First of all, the wine must be aged for 38 months with a minimum of 18 in oak. It is therefore usually released in the 4thyear after the vintage. Prices of Barolo are soaring and collectors all over the globe are falling in love with this wine known to last for decades.
Barbaresco on the other hand, just 15-20 km from Barolo, is an even smaller region of just 3 villages and 1 hamlet. It is thought that Domizio Cavazza, founder and professor at the Oenology School in Alba believed in Barbaresco from the very beginning when he formed the Cantina Sociale in 1894 and called the wine “Barbaresco” for the first time. In fact, legend has it that Barolo would even use grapes coming from Barbaresco because the quality was so high. Barbaresco became a DOC in 1966 and reached DOCG status in 1980. The average altitude of the Barbaresco appellation is slightly lower than Barolo and is also closer to the Tanaro River. These characteristics along with the maritime micro-climate can cause grapes to ripen slightly earlier, softening the tannins a bit.
Despite the appellations being so close, Nebbiolo’s sensitivity to terroir does indeed make Barolo and Barbaresco different. We must remember though, that they are both made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes and exhibit the characteristic flavors of the grape and structure which is typical to Nebbiolo. Barbaresco can be generalized as more “elegant” with less tannins, making it a bit more approachable when young. It is also generally less expensive than Barolo just on the other side of Alba. However, when we talk about Nebbiolo, even the single vineyard crus can be very different amongst themselves. Sites like Montestefano in the Barbaresco village can be just as austere and structured as a Barolo!
By law Barbaresco is aged one less year than Barolo and is released in the 3rd year from the harvest.
If you want to start trying Barolos but don’t necessarily want to spend all the money, you can start familiarizing yourself with Langhe Nebbiolo, a younger fruitier every day wine and then move on to Barbaresco. If you love the aromas and finesse of Barbaresco, you will definitely have fun exploring the complexities of Barolo! The key is to understand the Nebbiolo grape and then discover its nuances with Barbaresco and Barolo.