Region in Focus: Barolo

“the Burgundy of Italy”
One of Italy’s most prestigious wine regions, often referred to as “the Burgundy of Italy” (or at least that’s what our wine buyer Mark Faber calls it).

The appellation of Barolo is located in the south of the state of Piedmont in the very north-west of Italy. The town of Barolo for which the region is named is located in the Monferrato foothills, which are a set of picturesque rolling hillsides and bordered to the north and west by the Tanaro River. The whole region sits about half-way between the major port of north-west Italy, Genoa to the south-east, and capital city Turin to the north-west. The heart of the Barolo vineyard zone, established in 1896, covers the parishes of Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d’Alba, La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba and Barolo itself, and is supplemented by parts of the townships of Novello, Verduno and Grinzane Cavour, added in 1934 to the official regional classification, and then by Diano d’Alba, Cherasco and Roddi added in 1966. The region is close enough to the ocean to be cooled by its afternoon breezes but not close enough for humidity to cause a disease risk. The all-important rolling hillsides provide drainage of excess water, exposure to morning sun and remove frost risk, making this site a perfect one for quality viticulture. This rang truest when the whole region was one of only 3 regions to be awarded the DOCG title, the highest quality standard in Italy, back in 1980.

Despite its small size, there are significant differences in the geology of the within the subzones of Barolo. This leads to distinctive stylistic differences within the subzones. Below is a quick summary of the geology of each of the main towns and the result this has on the wines;

La Morra and Barolo in the west of the region are in a small valley and have Calcareous Marl soils from the Tortonian Epoch. This type of soil is compact and quite fertile and produces softer, fruitier and more aromatic wines which age relatively rapidly (for a Barolo that is!)

Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba are located in a valley in the east of the region, and their calcareous marl soils hail from the Helvetian epoch, meaning they have a higher percentage of compressed sandstone and are much less fertile. These soils yield more intense, structured wines that take much longer to mature.

Castiglione Falletto sits on a ridge between the two valleys and has a mix of these soils, and combine elegant and lifted fruit with a structured backbone.
The best way to discover the region? Drink your way through it…