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Three Big B’s of Italy: Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello

This week for Italian Wine Night I took another class at the San Francisco Wine Center, also taught by Mauro Cirilli. We drank an extraordinary selection of wines, whilst learning about Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

Barbaresco and Barolo

Barbaresco comes from the Piedmont region, in an area of the Langhe immediately to the east of Alba and from the communities of Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive. It is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes. Barolo, from only about 20 km away and also made from 100% Nebbiolo, nevertheless very distinctive wine.

Barbaresco receives a slight maritime influence, which allows the grapes to ripen a little earlier and have a shorter maceration time. Thus the tannins in a young Barbaresco are less harsh than a in a young Barolo. Under DOCG rules, Barbaresco is allowed to age a year less than Barolo. The biggest difference between the two wines is that the tannins of Barbaresco tend to soften quicker – making the wines more approachable when young. Because of that, however, a Barbaresco won’t age as long as a traditionally-made Barolo.

A few more points of comparison and contrast:

  Barbaresco Barolo
Style, Nickname more feminine, “Wine of the Queen” more masculine, “Wine of the King”
Region Piedmont Piedmont
Grape 100% Nebbiolo 100% Nebbiolo
Aging Requirements 26 months, 50 months for Riserva 38 months, 62 months for Riserva

Barbaresco Tasting Notes

Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Paje 2006
Very traditional style. Aged 36 months in huge barrels of Slovenian oak. Approx $40 retail.
Color: Light garnet
Nose: Red fruit, mint, herbs
Palate: Warm, astringent, red fruit, licorice, mineral finish – wants rich food

Moccagatta 2004
New style; won’t age as long as the traditional. Aged 12 months in barrique. Approx $50 retail.
Color: A little orange-y
Nose: Dry fruit, cherry, vanilla, spice
Palate: Warm, rich, earthy, full-bodied

Barolo Tasting Notes

Comm. Burlotto Monvigliero 2000
150-year old producer, very traditional – still even crushes by feet! Open vat fermentation, 30-40 days maceration. Aged 30 months in large Slovenian oak barrels. Approx $70 retail.
Color: Very light, almost transparent. Shows a bit of age.
Nose: Olives, dry red fruit, orange zest, anise, dust
Palate: Lighter, elegant, very little tannin. Dry herbs, dry fruit. Long finish.

Vietti Rocche 2005
Single vineyard. 2005 was a difficult vintage. Aged 34 months in Slovenian oak barrels. Approx $130 retail.
Color: Darker, no sign of age
Nose: Dry red fruit, cinnamon, orange peel, fresh violet
Palate: Warmer, weightier, acidic. Oak and fruit tannins. Fennel, licorice, spice.

Luigi Einaudi Costa Grimaldi 2006
Another difficult vintage. Modern style. Approx $90 retail.
Color: Garnet, no orange, concentrated
Nose: Red fruit, vanilla
Palate: Very warm, full-bodied, aggressive tannin and acid. Ripe fruit, tart cherry, dried red fruit.

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is produced in the area around the town of Montalcino, about 120 km south of Florence in Tuscany. “Brunello”, which means “dark one” in the local dialect, is the name of the clone of Sangiovese (Sangiovese grosso) grown in this area.

Montalcino has one of the warmest and driest climates in Tuscany, and grapes in the area ripen up to a week earlier than in nearby Vino Nobile Montepulciano and Chianti Classico. However, the region does have microclimates: the northern slopes receive less sunlight and are generally cooler than the southern slopes. Vineyards planted on the northern slopes tend to produce more aromatic wines. Vineyards on the southern and western slopes receive more sunlight and more maritime winds, which tend to produce wines with more power and complexity.

Region Tuscany
Grape 100% Sangiovese
Aging Requirements 48 months, 60 months for Riserva

Brunello Tasting Notes

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 1999
From the southwest of the region. Traditional producer. Softer, more elegant. Aged 30 months between tonneaux and large barrels. Approx $80 retail.
Color: Garnet with orange hues
Nose: Very intense and well-balanced. Dust, earth, dry red currant, tobacco leaves
Palate: Good structure and acidity. Dry red fruit, earth.

Pieve Santa Restituta Rennina Brunello di Montalcino 2004
Center of the region, closer to town. Wine is more complex. An elegant, soft vintage. Newer style, more extraction. Aged 12 months in barrique and 12 months in large barrels. Approx $140 retail.
Color: Ruby, concentrated
Nose: Fruit, spice from oak
Palate: Fruit, spice. Rich, concentrated, velvety. Soft tannins, long finish.

Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino 2001
Most complex of the three. Aged 24 month in large Slovenian barrels. Approx $120 retail.
Color: Darker, more concentrated, ruby
Nose: Dry rosemary, earthy, wet wood
Palate: Full-bodied, tannins still present, bright acidity. Dry fruit, earth. Long finish. Wants food – maybe game.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am extremely inspired with your writing skills as neatly as with the structure in your blog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self? Anyway stay up the nice high quality writing, it’s rare to peer a nice blog like this one nowadays..

  2. Thank you! I do my own writing – in this case I also had notes from class on which to base my post.

  3. I enjoy your writing style a lot! You got to taste some pretty amazing wines there…I would suggest giving vino nobile (from Montepulciano) a try, too. I find them fabulous.


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  1. Barolo and Barbaresco: Unique Expressions of Subtle Differences in Terroir » Cellarit Wine Blog

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