Pondering Barolo

Posted by Keith Wallace

There are wines. And there are Wines. Barolo is of the latter, not for its renown, prestige, or even its price. No, Barolo is a Wine that presents more questions than enological answers, a Wine which you may not always approach with certainty. Unsure of your reaction to it, or left wondering if you’ve plumbed its sensory depths. Even, perhaps, registering ambiguity regarding your feelings about it or your ability to “get” it.

So it was that our Advanced Sommelier Students marshaled their considerable intellectual and consumption skills (re: they drink..a lot) to delve into the Barolo mystique specifically, what makes for a great Barolo.

Their level of expertise was challenged by a blind tasting of Barolos representative of crus in four of the main communes of production to evaluate the relevance of terroir. There was also a horizontal tasting across three vineyards of Barolo from the same winemaker, all from the 2004 vintage.

And a vertical highlighting a single vineyard and two consistently reliable producers. Discussions covered geologic soil composition and structure; topographic variations; climate changes within a growing season; methodology and techniques, philosophies of winemaking; and perceptions of so-called traditional and modern styles of Barolo. The goal was to identify the most important factor(s) in determining what makes Barolo…well, Barolo!

The result? Barolo remains an enigma wrapped in a riddle, a Wine of elegance and naturally induced beauty. One whose imponderability may best be served by remaining shrouded in the autumnal fog of its native Langhe hills.

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