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It’s Time to Hop on the Barolo Train

Not many bottles get to claim to be “the King of Wines,” but Barolo has earned that prestigious title in the hearts of many. This bold red wine, made in the Piedmont area of northwestern Italy, is produced from the red grape Nebbiolo, which is known for high acid, high tannins and flavors of red fruits, dried herbs and flowers. These wines are famous for their complexity, firm texture and ability to improve with age. They often spend a long time in oak to help soften their tannins.

“The region of Barolo continues to showcase its greatness,” says Writer-at-Large Jeff Porter, Wine Enthusiast’s reviewer of wines from Italy. In recent years, he says, Barolo has produced a string of vintages that exude elegance, beauty and power to rival bottlings from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Napa. Historically, these wines were blends of grapes from 11 distinct enclaves in the region—still a popular tack—but increasingly, they include single-designation Barolos from 170 official crus or vineyard sites. 

“The 2019s are powerhouses that show Nebbiolo in its ageable best,” Porter says. “Do not be afraid to try them today, so you can know how they began, but you will be well rewarded to stash a few aside.” The 2020s, meanwhile, are “like a happy puppy ready to play.” They are full of vitality from the start, he continues, but this doesn’t mean they’re unsuited for aging. “They are so delicious today that it will be hard for you to stop yourself from showing them to all your friends,” he explains.

Long story short: If you are not on the Barolo train, it’s time to hop on. The days when Barolo was considered a niche region are over.

“Today, Barolo has gone global,” Porter says. And why shouldn’t it? The land of truffles and fresh pasta is, no surprise, equally good at producing world-class wine. These top pours, selected by our tasting department, make the case better than words ever could.

Giacomo Fenocchio 2019 Villero Nebbiolo (Barolo)

The precision and beauty that Claudio Fenocchio is able to coax out of his wines is astonishing and this 2019 Villero is an opus. Dark cherry aromas lift from the glass, with layers of sweet and savory spice, black tea and rose bud. The wine is so generous and giving with a combination of wild red fruits and dark berries that meld perfectly with notes of cinchona bark, camphor, thyme and a distinct chalkiness. A sublime wine. Drink now–2050. 98 Points. Cellar Selection.Jeff Porter

$89.99 Flatiron Wine & Spirits

Brezza 2019 Cannubi Nebbiolo (Barolo)

Coming from the heart of the original part of Cannubi, this wine lifts from the glass with such elegance that it automatically sets you on your heels. Aromas of fresh cherries, pink roses, sweet spices, new leather and incense all combine in the glass. The purity of the palate is remarkable with flavors of crushed red fruits, dried violets, wild herbs and dried earth. Superfine tannins hide their seriousness as this wine will go the distance. Drink now–2050. 96 Points. Cellar Selection. — J.P.

$72.99 Flatiron Wine & Spirits

Borgogno 2019 Nebbiolo (Barolo)

Aromas of macerated cherries with mixed spices, thyme, dried violets and roses all work like a spell to draw you deeper into the wine. Each part of the palate is in its place with fruit, earth, spice and savory qualities all working toward the same goal: being delicious. Drinkable now, this will go the distance as a classic Barolo. Drink now–2045. 94 Points. Editor’s Choice. — J.P.

$110.99 Eataly Vino

Chionetti 2019 Roncaglie Nebbiolo (Barolo)

Pristine aromas of fresh cherries lift from the bowl of the glass as if on wings while wild roses swirl around them. The wine sucks you in with each sniff. The vibrant palate continues the lift of the nose with high-toned red berries commanding your attention as subtle hints of savory spice, herb, leather and truffle develop. Supple tannins and classic Nebbiolo acidity steer the wine to the finish. Drink now–2040. 94 Points. Cellar Selection. — J.P.

$120 Manhattan Wine Company

Bava 2016 Scarrone Nebbiolo (Barolo)

Dried cherries and crushed raspberries open the nose of this well-crafted Barolo as notes of rose, wild thyme and incense waft in and out of the glass. Solid and firm with a foundation of elegant tannins and mouthwatering acidity that holds the deep core of fruit, herbs and earthy flavors that permeate the wine. Drink now–2040. 93 Points. J.P.

$81.00 AOC Selections

Pelassa 2018 Nebbiolo (Barolo)

Wild cherries, rosebud and incense waft out of the glass of this elegant wine. Structured and stylized as if going to walk the runway, this wine struts its stuff knowing it is good. Flavors of macerated raspberries, holly leaves and thyme wrap around the elegant tannins, finishing with crunchy acidity. Drink now–2040. 92 Points. Editor’s Choice. J.P.

$39.99 Thewinebuyer.com

Mauro Molino 2020 Bricco Luciani Nebbiolo (Barolo)

A medley of Marasca cherries, cinnamon stick, whole clove, new leather, cedar, and bay leaf greets the senses, unfurling into notes of turned earth as the wine opens. The palate is giving and lush, adorned with raspberry and strawberry compote and a hint of vanilla. Fine tannins and roasted oak notes contribute to an elegant tannic structure, making it a decidedly pretty wine. Drink now through 2040. 92 Points. — J.P.

 

$53.88 Saratogawine.com

Pico Maccario 2019 Del Comune di Serralunga d'Alba Nebbiolo (Barolo)

This Barolo opens with aromas of ripe cherries, crushed raspberries, mint and wildflowers. Hints of sweet and savory spice waft out as the wine opens. Tart red wild berries burst on the palate, as medicinal herbs provide a counterpoint to the juicy fruit flavors. Notes of spiced tea, leather and roasted earth emerge on the firm and well-structured palate. Drink now–2035. 91 Points. — J.P.

$39.19 Saratogawine.com

Villadoria 2019 del Comune di Serralunga d'Alba Nebbiolo (Barolo)

Driven by crushed raspberries, wild cherries, wildflowers and mixed herbs, this Barolo elegantly presents itself as a classic. Today, in its youth there is banter between the succulent red-berried fruit and the youthful and firm tannins as tea, forest-floor and leather flavors stand in reserve. Well-balanced and a wine to help begin an exploration of Nebbiolo from this amazing region. Drink now–2040. 91 Points. — J.P.

$52.88 Saratogawine.com

Icardi 2019 Parej Organic Nebbiolo (Barolo)

Roasted cherries, warmed clove and star anise aromas waft from the glass as dried floral hints and wild thyme rise as the wine opens. Mouthfilling with loads of mixed wild berries fresh, dried and preserved all combined with oak spice finishing with subtle earth and superfine tannins. Drink now–2040. 91 Points. Cellar Selection. — J.P.

$79.99 67 Wine
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