Sunday, October 18, 2009

The reds of Piedmont

Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo & Barberesco - typical Italian names for red wines. Why do they all have to start with a "B" - confused already? It doesn't need to be painful.

First of all the Brunello doesn't belong in this group because:
a) It comes from a completely different region which is Tuscany
b) Is a totally different grape varietal from the other two (i.e. Sangiovese).

First off, Barolo & Barbaresco are names of actual towns. Both are in the Langhe region in Piedmont. If you can imagine the capital of Piedmont being Alba (yes think white truffles). Barberesco would be Northeast of Alba while Barolo would be Southwest of Alba. To be considered Barolo or Barbaresco they would need reside in the appropriate regions AND be made from the Nebbiolo grape.

Let's take a look at the Barolo region first.

The Barolo region essentially comprises of a hilly area comprising of 2 valleys interspersed with old towns which are homes to the many wine producers. Traditionally, these are the towns of Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falleto, Serralunga d'Alba and parts of Monforte d'Alba. Additional locales were given Barolo designation in the later half of the 20th century and these were parts of Cheresco, Diano d'Alba and Roddi. By regulation Barolo needs to be in wood for a minimum of 2 years and 1 year in bottle. Typically, producers release their Barolo 4 years after the vintage. A reserva designation can be given with the additional stipulation of 5 years total ageing with 3 minimum in wood.

The region comprises of over 1,700 hectares of vines producing over 10 million bottles of Barolo annually. Can we say over production? Over the past years there have been efforts to categorized various terroirs in Barolo but nothing has come about even closely approaching the Bordeaux classed growth or Burgundy cru designations. Supposedly the terroir and soil composition are different between the different sides of the 2 valleys comprising Barolo ( roughly bisected by the road designated SP3/SP3bis). The western portion is considered to have softer and more supple tannins but may be less age-worthy. The eastern having harder tannins but with more complexity and age-worthiness.

Unofficially though, there seems to be widespread recognition of the following terroirs to be above the rest. This is not a definitive list so if I've probably missed a whole bunch

La Morra: Rocche dell'Annunziata, Brunate & Cerequio
Barolo: Cannubi
Castglione Falleto: Monprivato, Villero
Serralunga: Cerretta

More to come...

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