The three greatest wines of Italy all begin with the letter ‘B’. Last month at the Wine School @ San Francisco Wine Center we learned about the subtle but significant differences between these 3 Big B’s: Barolo, Brunello & Barbaresco. These 3 wines, named for their regions, are known for their longevity, structure, acidity and food friendliness. All 3 of these wines are lightly pigmented and tend to have a garnet color, with high tannin, high acidity, and medium to full body. We discussed Brunello here. Now onto Barolo and Barbaresco!
Barolo and Barbaresco wines are both made 100% with the Nebbiolo grape. These northern Italian regions of Piedmont have a cooler climate, and the food of the region tends to be rich, so Nebbiolo pairs well with the hearty fare. Minimum aging requirements for Barbaresco include 26 months in oak for regular wines and 50 months for Riserva wines. In Barolo, minimum aging for regular wines is 38 months and 62 months for Riserva. These two regions are a bit like Burgundy (another B!) in that many of the wines are single vineyard designated. Despite their proximity, these two regions vary in climate and style due to Barbaresco’s closeness to the Tanaro River, which provides a maritime influence that helps Nebbiolo ripen a bit earlier than in Barolo. This results in earlier fermentation and less maceration, so the tannins in young Barbaresco are not as tough as in Barolo, hence the reduced aging requirement. Barbaresco is more approachable than Barolo earlier, with flavors of licorice, spice and dried fruit, but it typically won’t age quite as long as Barolo. Barolo is one of the most treasured wines of Italy, with its trademark calcareous soils and vineyard slopes contributing to the complex aromas of tar and roses and extremely long cellar life. With Brunello di Montalcino, these 3 beautiful wines form the backbone of Italian wine culture and are all prized by our Storage Members here at San Francisco Wine Center and by other collectors around the world.