Barolo and Barbaresco
Our most recent trip was to the Piedmont region of North West Italy where we visited a number of producers in the famous denominaziones of Barolo and Barbaresco. The region is simply stunning, it's a natural bowl of steep rolling terrain where the vineyards share the valuable terroir with the famous hazelnut trees of the nearby Nuttela and Ferrero Rocher factories. Does a better combination than rich chocolate, deep red wine and exquisite countryside exist?
Both Barolo and Barbaresco use the Nebbiolo grape but the region also extensively plants Barbera. The two grapes produce starkly contrasting wines, but both are excellent in their own way. The famous wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are both very tannic wines so they need time to age to develop a balanced flavour. We consistently found that we preferred wines that were 5 years old as the tannins had softened to create much smoother wines which allowed their flavours to come through. In this regard we couldn't help but think of similarities to the famous Pinot Noir reds of Burgundy, though the wines themselves are somewhat heavier.
The locals often referred to Barbera as 'the wine of the people' as its fruity and low tannic nature means it is best drunk much younger than the Nebbiolo varieties. We loved some of these wines which are deep in colour and have an intense flavour of dark cherries and blackberries often finishing with a subtle sweetness.
Why? This is arguably the home of Barolo with production dating back over 200 years. A recent project has seen large century old oak casks restored and put back into use for some of their wines – the use of such old oak meaning that little flavour is imparted into the wine allowing it's natural aroma to develop. Despite the size of today’s operation – they produce more than 1.5 million bottles each year – the business is still family run by Anna and Ernesto Abbona.
Top Wine: Barbera d’Alba Peiragal
This was the epitome of the rich intense fruity flavours we loved in Barbera wines. We would pair this with rich game dishes, cheese boards or chocolate desserts. This will be on our wine list next season.
Massolino impressed us as a forward thinking producer for the 21st century even though their heritage dates back to 1896. There was an obvious passion in all who worked here and a refreshing attitude which saw them mid-way through a major expansion of their facilities, not to increase production, but refine their wines even further. We particularly admired the clarity of their range, with each of their wines a delight. We left agreed that it was a faultless tasting.
Top Wine: Barolo DOCG
Massolino’s blended Barolo was perhaps our favourite of the visit. Smooth and silky in texture with a balance of damson fruit and savoury notes. We would need little excuse to devour a bottle, but a fillet steak would in our mind be the perfect accompaniment.