Sweet Cooking

Barolo. Barbaresco. Nebbiolo. Oh My!

In Travel, Wine on June 15, 2010 at 4:13 pm

We spent 2 days in Piemonte touring wineries. I learned so much about the business (and art, really) of farming grapes and winemaking. Plus we met some pretty neat characters along the way. It was a great experience.

It's hard to see in this photo, but the Alps are in the background.

Here are a few interesting tidbits:

1. Barolo and Barbaresco are made from the Nebbiolo grape. If you had to rate these wines from best to least best, it would go, Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo. The best crus are reserved for Barolo. The worst crus are for Nebbiolo. That is not to say that Nebbiolo wines aren’t worth buying – they are! Nebbiolos are a great everyday drinking wine. We found our favorite to be from a winery called “Vajra”.

Francesa (grand daughter of the owner) gave us a tour and assisted with our tasting. At each of the wineries we toured, a family member was our host.

2. To enjoy Barolo, you must be patient. A Barolo must age for 3 years before it can even leave the winery. It should really age for an additional 5-7 years before being consumed. If you see a young Barolo on a wine list (say 2005 or more recent), I would skip it. It’s not ready yet. Personally, we don’t drink much Barolo at home. They are awesome wines, but expensive. Save Barolo for a special occasion. Drink a Barbera on semi-special occasions. Just an fyi…Barbera is not made from nebbiolo grapes…it’s made from the Barbera grape (hence the name). Drink Nebbiolo anytime, no occasion needed.

This is a great Barbera from Roberto Voerzio. The wines coming out of this farm are amazing. Definitely seek some of this "juice" out!

3. The grape vines in Piemonte are never watered. It is not allowed by Italian wine laws. I thought the reason might be water conservation or the prevention of pests. I was wrong. The reason is to control the yield. If everyone watered their vines, the vines would produce more grapes but of lesser quality. So we would have a lot more wine from Piemonte but it wouldn’t be nearly as good. Having a low yield is one of the most important things in winemaking.

4. Piemonte wines are typically never blended. Meaning the wines will be 100 percent of one grape. If you see a Piemonte blend on a menu or in a shop…I’d be suspicious. This is in complete contrast to wines made in the rest of Italy and most of France.

5. There are not any great white wines coming out of Piemonte right now. If you see a Piemonte white, I’d skip it. The reds are better.

6. We were surprised at the inexpensive wine prices in this region. The average cost of the wines we tasted was $35. There were some great wines for 15 Euros and under! The Nebbiolos were a great value. So why are Italian wines sold in the U.S. so expensive? The winemaker has to sell through a distributor. The distributor then marks up the price and sells it to retail stores or restaurants. So, by the time you see a wine on a menu or at a wine sh0p, the price has been marked up 3 to 4 times what it is sold for in Europe. Such a pity.

This is the perfect everyday wine! If you can find a good Nebbiolo that isn't expensive, you are set!

You’ve probably seen wines from Ceretto and Gaja on wine lists. They are certainly the most well-known winemakers in Piemonte. We couldn’t tour either because Ceretto was closed and Gaja doesn’t allow guests at all. Certainly drink wine from these producers, but also check out some of the smaller guys. Here is our list of wines to try:

  • Anything and everything from Roberto Voerzio
  • 2007 Barbera d’Asti from Marchesi di Gresy
  • Vajra Nebbiolo (any recent year)
  • Anything and everything from Fratelli Cigliuti (we had an awesome tasting here – great family!)

Cheers!

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