baroloPerhaps you have heard of Barolo, the so-called King of Wines and Wine of Kings. Or maybe, like so many other wine fans, you are unaware of one of Italy’s best kept secrets: Barolo. We get it, you LOVE wine; more importantly you love to drink wine. Barolo can take more than 10 years to become drinkable. In this day of instant gratification, the idea of waiting to drink your wine may seem more like torture than the highbrow anticipation a sommelier or exclusive wine collector may exhibit. However, no wine lover should confine themselves to a dark insta-wine corner. We want to shed a little light on your wine world and let you know why Barolo is Italy’s best kept secret.

Someone who has tasted Barolo will describe it as full and structured, with complex aromas. Wineries in the northern Italian region of Piedmont produce Barolo, with eleven communes making up the Barolo production zone. Strict rules govern how Barolo is made and what makes it “Barolo.” Only Nebbiolo grapes can be used and the grapes must come from vineyards on hillsides. Vineyards in valleys? Not Barolo according to the 2010 production code. To be considered a Wine of Kings or King of Wines, Barolo must have a minimum alcohol content of 13 percent and age 38 months; two of those months must be in oak. For the Barolo “Riserva” label, the wine must age at least five years in oak.

Frenchman invented the Italian Barolo

Frenchman Louis Oudart actually created Barolo. In the mid-1800s, the Marchesa of Barolo thought the rich nobles needed a richer, more noble wine. She hired Oudart to make something splendid out of Barolo’s native red wines. Oudart’s creation proved so popular that other wineries in Piedmont followed suit and the Wine of Kings was born. Barolo is an Old World-style wine. Considered rich and full-bodied (much like the kings who craved it), Barolo is often compared to the great Pinot Noirs of Burgundy. The color runs a lighter, brick red and the high tannins and acidic levels of the Nebbiolo grape demand years in the cellar. But with the right amount of time, the tannins soften, releasing a bouquet of flavors and aromas, often described as licorice, rose flower, tar, truffles, violets, and dried herbs.

Barolo revolution

Barolo has not been without controversy. In the 1980s and 90s, a full on (stylistic) war broke out. No, it wasn’t bloody, but you can bet some of the spilled wine looked like spilled blood in the right light. We digress. Innovators brought new techniques to Barolo, trying to create a softer, gentler wine. They picked a riper grape and cut fermentation time. They also aged the wine in small, French, oak barrels, instead of the traditional bigger barrels. The result was a fruitier wine that could be consumed much sooner. The newer Barolo proved popular with modern tastes and took the world by storm. Traditionalists argue that changing the process may yield a nice tasting wine, but not a true Barolo. The new techniques, they say, eliminate the very things that make Barolo—Barolo.

Now that you understand a bit more about the history and why Barolo is Italy’s best kept secret, we’ll let you figure out whether you are an Old World or New World Barolo fan. Wine experts say it’s worth introducing yourself to the traditional version. Every time a bottle of Barolo opens, a unique sensory experience awaits. Each bottle gives off its own emotions and sensations. One collector calls Barolo a “lovely person who needs to be discovered, little by little.” Here, let us introduce you. No more secrets.