A Living Barolo

A grape so rich in repute that in 1431 the local law had forbidden uprooting or cutting off its vines and the recidivists were as severely punished as to even chop off their right hands or hung to death.

The much-celebrated hero of Piedmont, Nebbiolo, is a small-berried red grape with thick skin and light colour. This sturdy varietal requires long sun-hours and has a tendency to ripen late. That’s where it gets its name from as it’s harvested during the winter fog, locally called ‘nebbia’. This elongated ripening period allows complex flavours to develop. It’s free-spirited and a hard one to tame character has drawn limelight to its popularity furthermore.

Once called the king of wines and wines for the kings, Barolo is the boldest and masculine avatar of Nebbiolo. The wines are aged for a minimum of three years before they are set to release with the highest quality wine designation of DOCG. In their true sense, Barolos are never too dark in appearance and carry a strong backbone of acidity and sharp tannins that assist it decades-long aging. Play of oak distinguishes one from the other and can really lift the wine from a bold heavy style to a round subtle one. They’re not for the young and restless as they’re best consumed only after half a decade and better ones can age for more than 30 years and still be youthful. 

Every producer shares a distinguished philosophy about the grape and its winemaking.  One such estate is Azienda Vinicola Palladino. Set in the center of Serralunga d’Alba, one of the villages of Barolo, the winery dates back to 1974. Amongst others, they produce Barolo from their San Bernardo vineyards which are much like their ‘Grand Cru’ selection! In a vertical tasting of their various vintages, the 1982 stood out.

It showed signs of aging from the start but still had flexes of its youth. Intense sweet aromas to begin with hinting towards foie gras, aged balsamic vinegar, and truffle oil, not usually recorded in a wine, thus rating it high on the gastronomic scale. Bayleaf, roasted cumin, burnt charcoal, toasted nuts, and porcini mushroom followed, creating a delightful concoction of aromas. It took its time to open with plentiful swirls and sniffs and finally came with a big burst of flavours on the palate.Although austere and complex, the old-school velvety tannin structure along with serious notes of coffee, aged meat, sweet tobacco, and olive dust makes it a wine worth surrendering to. Already 31, yet no signs of giving up. A juicy roasted rack of lamb with truffle-scented grilled potatoes and garden vegetables sitting next to it would’ve made it a match worth the travel.

Barolos are at times considered too serious to be approached. They are rather a simpler choice when treated well. They are much like teenage kids but with time and little air they mature to be a fine company. Coming from the land of gastronomic history, it’s a wine-style made for discerning palates and great occasions. But with wine that good, every dinner can be an occasion. Cin!

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