Barolo has been on my list of top places to visit since the moment I found out I was accepted to university in Piemonte. Unfortunately, given the COVID situation, I still haven't seen a lot however, now that there’s been some change in the region colours from red to orange and now yellow, I finally got to cross Barolo off of my list!
A picturesque village with a population of literally 713 inhabitants, Barolo is known for its many vineyards that span as far as the eye can see, all with nebbiolo grapes sprouting from the vines. With a spectacular panoramic view, the town is charmingly tiny with a large brick castle, colourful pink churches and of course, many wine shops.
The first thing you’re going to want to do when you arrive in Barolo's city centre is grab a calice di passaggio, which is essentially a glass of wine that you can enjoy on the go! For only $4, you can sample a glass of Barolo and take in the sights of the town.
Of course, a stop at any of the many enoteche or wine shops is also essential. And a tip I have for you is that if you don’t want to spend your life’s savings on a super aged bottle of wine, you can’t go wrong with one from 2016. Deemed a great year by local Piemontese wine makers, this is one thing that I’ve heard a fair bit in my first few wine tastings so far. Do what you will with that information!
There are also some great shops that have unique food products for the food and wine lover. In fact, after stopping by a few enoteche and specialty stores alike, I picked up Barolo-infused salami, roasted garlic cream, Barolo-infused tajarin, Arneis white wine vinegar, and candied taggiasca olives, along with two bottles of Barolo and even a Barolo Chinato, which is like a sweet digestivo made with nebbiolo grapes.
I should note that of the two bottles of wine, I chose one based solely on the beauty of its watercolour label. I later learned that it was a 2014 Barolo created from a blend of nebbiolo grapes from local wineries. This was a wine that I actually ended up sharing with my pals on Christmas day, because why not spoil yourself on Christmas?!
I also paid a visit to the enoteca of Borgogno, one of the most famous wineries dating back to the mid 18th century. With wines crafted using traditional methods, the winery focuses on producing organic wines. Under the guidance of Oscar Farinetti, the Italian businessman behind Eataly, the winery continues to thrive today. Of course, I chose a 2016 Barolo as it was the most within my price range of about $50. I was also able to taste the wine on the upper terrace of the enoteca as dusk began to fall and I must say, it was incredible. I’m not sure what I’m saving the bottle for, but I know it’ll have to be a very special occasion!
A stop by the Museo dei Cavatappi, which is a museum all about the history and evolution of the corkscrew, is also worth a visit. Spanning from all over the world with unique designs, ornate decorations or crafted with precious materials, your idea of corkscrews is bound to change! Unfortunately, the museum was closed due to COVID restrictions so I wasn’t able to see the exhibit. However, I did stop by the gift shop where I was very close to buying a souvenir corkscrew but I think I’ll have to wait until I can visit with my parents and we can do a proper tour.
There’s also the key feature of Barolo which is Castello Falletti. Built in the 10th century to protect the settlement from invaders, it’s located in the centre of the town, overlooking the many nebbiolo vineyards of the region. Complete with museum and enoteca, we were only allowed to take a brief tour, unfortunately without tastings.
And right next to the castle is the adorably aesthetic San Donato church. A lovely pink hue, the church almost embodies the very colour and soul of this wine region. Buried there are the Lords of Barolo.
One of the most important things I learned is that Barolo is actually made from the nebbiolo grape. It is simply the aging period that differentiates the wines of Nebbiolo, Barbaresco and Barolo. For example, Barbaresco must age for a minimum of 2 years versus a Barolo which must age for a minimum of at least 4 years if not longer to create bolder and richer flavours.
Though it was just a quick afternoon jaunt, I hope I can return back to Barolo in the spring with some family and friends soon to learn some more, and share a few glasses of wine over lunch and then a couple more glasses while exploring the town a bit better. Salute!