viernes, 27 de junio de 2014

The history of Barolo wine

The castle of Grinzane Cavour

To celebrate the Unesco's decision of adding another italian site to the World Heritage List program, the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato rural areas, we decided to talk you about a symbol of this region, that perfectly blends together history, landscape and gastronomy. We could've chosen to talk you about the Tartufo Bianco, the white truffle, that's a sort of mysterious and delightful ingredient that only few actually know how to handle in the kitchen, but we prefer to talk to you in front of a cup of red wine. Yes, you're right, today we'll tell you the history of one of the World's greatest red wine ever: the Barolo from Piedmont.

One of us (Tom) is a wine lover, he adores red wines, and considers Barolo his favourite wine in the Universe, please forget his enthusiasm about this kind of wine! ;)
Barolo wine has a DOCG warranty mark (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, the highest quality mark in Italy) and it's produced in the province of Cuneo, in the communes of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d'Alba (take note for gifts: this is the favourite kind of Barolo of Tom!), and also part of the countryside of others communes like Novello, Verduno, Cherasco and Grinzane Cavour (we'll meet later the history of this last production).

Landscape of the Langhe (picture from

The Barolo has a dark red colour that makes him inimitable, and it's obtained with a very unique kind of grapes: the Nebbiolo. The Nebbiolo is probably one of the most refined kind of grapes, only the Pinot Nero (pinot noire) can match it, maybe. This kind of grapes has a dark, black colour, and his name comes from the italian word "nebbia", that is fog, typical of the Langhe hills of Piedmont.
Nebbiolo grapes needs particular conditions to be cultivated: clayish lands, hills no lower than 170 meters, wet yet temperated climate...That makes Nebbiolo grapes almost impossible to cultivate outside Piedmont, or better, outside Langhe region of Piedmont.

Grapes of Nebbiolo
This kind of grapes has been cultivated in the valley since forever, and therefore it's difficult to discover its history. We can say that the first written source where we see the Nebbiolo grapes used to make wineis from year 1200 or so. We find it in the agricoltural Liber (book) of Pier Crescenzio (aka Pietro de' Crescenzi).
We see it mentioned also in the 1431 statutes known as "Statutes of La Morra", between the Landlords of the area, the Fallettis, and the citizens. There we find written about the quality of grapes known as "Nebbiolo" and also another quality of grapes known as Pignolo, that is what is nowadays known as Pinot.
From XIX century the wines produced with Nebbiolo grapes becomes to become more and more famous, but it wasn't until the times of Camillo Benso, count of Cavour, that the Barolo started to taste like it does nowadays, letting all the qualities of Nebbiolo grapes to fully emerge in the taste of the Barolo. The count of Cavour, Camillo Benso, was a key person in the unification of Italy under the crown of the house of Savoy in the middle of XIX century. But he had also ginormous gastronomical merits: he started the production of a very noble wine with a perfectly balanced flavour, together with the last marchioness of Barolo, Giulia Colbert Falletti (again this name, Falletti). Camillo Benso produced his wine in his family's vineyards, in Grinzane Cavour, and this together with the fact that he was one of the most influential politics of XIX century's Piedmont make this delightful wine a very appreciated quality from the Royal House of Savoy. This spread the diffusion of this wine throughout Europe, leading the way to the international success of Barolo.

Camillo Benso, count of Cavour
It is said that after that marchioness Falletti gave him some Barolo wine, king Carlo Alberto of Savoy felt in love with this wine, and decided to buy an estate to cultivate the Nebbiolo grapes on his own. He bought the Verduno estate, whilst his son, the king Vittorio Emanuele (under the reign of whom Camillo Benso completed the unification of Italy) decided to buy another estate where Barolo was produced: the lands of Fontanafredda at Serralunga d'Alba. After some 150 years, the Barolo of Fontanafredda is still so popular that even Eataly sells it at its restaurants. A wine that still is a symbol of Italian high gastronomy after all these years, literally from the birth of Italy. Wow!

We would advice you to buy a good bottle of Barolo whenever you find it, Barolos are a kind of wines that gives the best of them when you let them age. For instance, my father bought two bottles of Barolo from Borgogno (excellent quality! A vineyard in Barolo from 1761!) when my sister (1981) and I (1984) were born, and we opened my sister's wine in 2010, when she got married, and my own in 2012. both were perfectly preserved and had a marvellous taste!

It is a sort of wine fit for "meditations", to enjoy little by little, its taste emerges quietly, developing gradually and engaging your whole palate. A round taste that will convince even the pickiest ones.

Being a red wine (but do not imagine southern italy's strong red wines, its great personality only developes with time) it's great for meat dishes, roasts or stews, so typical of Piedmont gastronomy. Perfect with aged cheeses and truffles meals like pastas, it is a key ingredient for the "stufato al Barolo", a traditional piemontese stew recipe. It is used also to make excellent salami, the salame al barolo.

The price is what you may expect for one of the World's greates wines, but in Italy you can buy a Barolo for even 8-10 euros...a great souvenir for your trip! of course you can taste it at your city's wine bars, at Eataly you can drink it for some 3 to 3,50 euros per cup.

Enjoy your wine!


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