In Search of Barolo

We came to Turin, Italy, in good part to find Barolo, a small village about an hour’s drive away.  

Barolo is a picturesque place, full of history, impressive medieval structures, and an exclusive product known the world over – .  Barolo, the deep red wine that bears the village’s name.

We’d been to Barolo five years before, and we remembered it fondly.  The village is quaint and normally filled with tourists. Many tour in groups, or like these cyclists from Canada and the U.S., ride from town to town, enjoying the scenery and the challenge of navigating the hills and cobblestone streets that connect them.   In September, when we visited this time, the busy season had pretty much ended.  The streets were quiet, but the shops were still open.

The village of Barolo has many wine shops that offer tastings of the region’s wines, but Jo & I set our sights on Damilano’s, the winery we had visited on our first trip to Italy.  We had such a good time then and had learned so much about wine making that we deemed a repeat visit necessary.

We hoped that Marcella, the gracious and knowledgeable host we had before would still be there.  Lucky us.  She was.

Marcella studied wine chemistry in London. Her understanding of wine dynamics was obvious. Prompted by our many questions, she educated us and our palettes, once again. She poured generous servings of several Damilano wines, then briefed us on the individual personalities of each one.

Under Marcella’s watch, we learned a few things about wine chemistry and Barolo wine production:

  • Only wine produced from grapes grown on the hills around the village can bear the name Barolo.  Purchase a bottle of Barolo anywhere in the world and you can be assured the wine was produced here.
  • The soil around Barolo is heavy in clay.  Grapes grown here have unique qualities that contribute to Barolo’s one-of-a-kind taste.
  • Every hill around the village offers something different – different chemicals in the soil, different exposure to the sun.  Wine produced from grapes on adjoining hills, or sometimes even on different sides of the same hill, will differ in taste and quality from each other.
  • Barolo wine sits in oak casks for 3 years before being bottled.  Pull a Barolo off a shelf in a wine shop, and you know it is at least that old and probably even older.
  • Properly stored and aged, Barolo matures over time.  Give it another 5, 10, 20 or more years, and the tannins diminish, bringing the true taste and quality forward.
Grape crusher at work along the streets of Barolo

We spent an hour and a half at Damilano’s.  We worked our way from Lange, the least expensive but still wonderful variety produced by Damilano, to Liste, its most expensive and full-bodied Barolo.  We left happy, a bottle tucked under my arm that will be ready to open in 5 years, just in time to celebrate a certain someone’s landmark birthday.

Our next stop wasn’t far away – next door, at a charming restaurant serving the most delicious pasta, made fresh the Italian way.

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