Located in the foothills of the Italian Alps, just outside the picturesque town of Alba and around 50 kilometres southeast of Turin, the Barolo DOCG covers the village from which it takes its name and a further ten communes dotted among the Langhe hills. The principal villages - along with Barolo itself - are Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba; collectively these five areas produce the lion’s share of the annual wine yield, with the remainder coming from six smaller communes. Within these villages there are also 170 named vineyard areas registered as Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (MGAs). Through not officially a label of superiority, Barolo wines with MGA status are usually amongst the most prestigious.
The vineyards of Barolo DOCG benefit from the district’s complex topography, continental climate and mostly southern exposure. Limestone-rich soils in Barolo and La Morra lead to elegant, aromatic expressions with the potential for great complexity as they age, whilst the looser sandstone / limestone mix of Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto produce more intense, tannic wines that need a longer spell in the cellar in order to be tasted at their best. However, despite the subtle differences in terroir and microclimate between each commune - and even between individual vineyards - the characteristics which have made Barolo one of the world’s most revered red wines are omnipresent; full bodied, tannic and robust with a striking ruby red colour that fades to a more orangey-brown hue as the wines age.
Whilst DOCG regulations state that wines must age for 38 months (including at least 18 in oak or chestnut barrels), Barolo wines have typically required ten years cellaring to soften their tannins and nurture the complex flavour profile for which they are famed. However some producers are now moving away from the traditional approach, favouring a shorter fermentation period and smaller barrels to produce what many feel is a more accessible wine.
Regardless of winemaker preference, Barolo continues to be heralded as the world’s best expression of the Nebbiolo grape variety. Known as the ‘King of Wines’, and with a reputation that has only been strengthened over the past decade with an extended run of excellent vintages, there seems to be no sign of the crown slipping.