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Your Pocket Guide to Barolo, Plus Which Bottles to Buy

Images Courtesy of Vivino

Not many bottles get to claim to be the king of wines,” but Barolo has snagged that prestigious title in the hearts of many.  Made in Northwestern Italy, this bold red wine has been enjoyed for centuries. But whether Barolo is a staple in your collection or you’ve never tried a bottle yourself, there’s a lot to learn about the classic Italian wine.

Here, we break down what makes these wines so unique, plus our picks for the best Barolo bottlings. 

What Is Barolo Wine?

Barolo is a red wine, made only from the red grape Nebbiolo, which is well known for high acid, high tannins and flavors of red fruits, dried herbs and flowers. Barolo in particular is famous for its complexity, firm texture and ability to improve with age. These wines are often aged for a long time in oak to help soften the tannins. 

Many Italian wines are named for the region in which they are produced, rather than the grape variety, and Barolo is no exception: It’s produced in the Barolo wine region of Piedmont. This area, called the Barolo Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), is home to 11 villages that produce this wine. Though winemakers sometimes produce these bottles by blending Nebbiolo from multiple vineyards, producers also make single-designation Barolos. Among the 11 villages that produce Barolo, the most well-known are La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and Barolo.

The History of Barolo Wine

Like most aspects of wine history, it’s difficult to say when the first Barolo was made. What we do know is that Northern Italy has been producing wine for centuries. According to Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine, by Kerin O’Keefe, the dry modern version that we know today most likely came about in the mid-1800s. Before that, wines from this region tended to be much sweeter. But even these earlier versions were beloved by noted historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, according to Barolo and Barbaresco.