Barolo and Barbaresco: what are the differences? Which is better to choose? Which dishes do they pair best with?

by Redazione Fine Taste

Talking about Barolo and Barbaresco means not only talking about two splendid villages in the Langhe but, above all, about two true icons of Italian winemaking. Two great red wines. But what are the differences? Which is better to choose? Which dishes do they pair best with?

It is curious and surprising to drink both. Although produced entirely with Nebbiolo grapes, they have completely different characteristics and aromas.

(*) Nebbiolo grapes

Common features

In addition to the grapes of origin, another common factor is their denomination. Both can boast of being wines with Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin (DOCG), the highest expression of classification of high quality Italian wines.

Is Barolo or Barbaresco better? Frankly the question doesn't make much sense, let's try to list the characteristics of both instead.

(*) Overview of Barolo

Barolo: production process

Without using winemaker language, as we have already seen, Barolo comes from the area of ​​the same name in Piedmont.

The vast majority of Barolo wines in circulation are produced by blending grapes that come from different vineyards, not necessarily owned by the winery.

Quality rises when it comes to CRU, i.e. wines produced entirely with grapes that come from a single plot. In this case the name of the plot becomes an element of great distinction and can appear on the label.

If you take a tour of the Langa, which is always recommended whether you are a wine enthusiast or not, pay attention to the signs on some vineyards: Serralunga, Cannubi, Cerequio, Sarmassa, Bussia...

These are precisely the crus, i.e. Barolos produced exclusively with grapes coming from a single plot.

Obviously this is reflected in the quality and, consequently, in the price: the crus are more expensive than the other Barolos.

The particular exposure of the Barolo vineyards allows the grapes to ripen slowly and steadily, giving the wine those unique characteristics of balance between finesse and acidity.

An even more marked balance in the cellar, where the Nebbiolo grapes undergo delicate extraction processes to safeguard the wine from the marked astringency caused by the tannins and where the wine rests for three years before being bottled and placed on the market.

If the Barolo is Riserva, then the aging time goes from 3 to 5 years.

Barolo: tasting notes

Barolo is ruby ​​in color which tends towards amber as it ages.

The aromatic bouquet is varied: black cherry, undergrowth, dried flowers, truffle, leather and spicy notes.

Its structure is of great complexity. Just think that a bottle of Barolo can easily age for many decades.

(*) Overview of Barbaresco

Barbaresco: production process

The Barbaresco vineyards are located at lower altitudes than those of Barolo.

This geographical characteristic means that the grapes ripen earlier than those used to produce Barolo and allows us to obtain a more fruity and less tannic, more elegant wine on average.

The grape harvesting area is more limited than that of Barolo and as in the case of Barolo, the high quality wines come from nominated crus.

Even for Barbaresco the wines are treated with careful maceration to avoid strong astringency.

Barbaresco DOCG ages for two years before release, four years for the Reserve.

Barbaresco: tasting notes

Barbaresco is ruby ​​red with a light amber hue. The aromas are similar to those already seen for Barolo, black cherry, herbs, dried flowers, truffle, leather and sepzie. But they are more subtle, smoother, softer. It is the lower presence of tannins and the lower alcohol content that allow this softness.

Barbaresco is also a wine that does not fear aging, on the contrary. You can easily forget it in the cellar for many years.

Barolo vs Barbaresco: pairings

Barolo is a robust, structured red with important tannins and a higher than average alcohol content.

Given these peculiarities, it pairs best with savory dishes, with great structure and rich in fats, such as traditional Piedmontese first courses and cured meats and mature cheeses.

While displaying the same flavors and structure as Barolo, Barbaresco is a little softer, with smoother tannins and less alcohol. Perfect with tasty dishes that prefer butter but without being aggressive and with medium-aged cheeses.

If you feel like drinking a large bottle, or giving it to a dear friend of yours, take a look at these two great Langa products:

Barolo Carlo Revello & Figli

Barbaresco Rosanna Sandri