Written by
Alan Boatright

Barolo vs Barbaresco

Italian wines are quite the popular choice throughout the globe. Both the northwest regions and the northeast regions of the country can be called the king of wines. They are not just a remarkable creation of fine Italian craftsmanship, but they are simply perfect in every possible sense.

When it comes to different wines coming from Italy, the Barolo and Barbaresco go at the top of the list. These two variants come from the northwest region of Italy and are produced from the same type of grapes, Nebbiolo. Still, there lies a significant difference in the two variants of the Barolo and Barbaresco wines.

Barolo vs Barbaresco wines

Here are few differences that create the distinction between a Barolo vs. Barbaresco. These will help you have a better wine tasting experience.

Difference in soil

Difference in soil

Soil is the primary differentiating feature for both wines. The vineyards' soil used for Barbaresco is more nutrient than Barolo. This is because the Barbaresco does not exude as many tannins as the Barolo. The tannins are hard-hitting and strong in the case of a Barolo.

Both wines will give you the aroma of roses, perfumes, and cherry sauce, and both have a lasting finish in terms of taste. But the difference in the soil nutrient can be well seen in the tannin balance of the two.

Soil Composition for Nebbiolo Grapes

Soil Composition for Nebbiolo Grapes

Even though both the wines use Nebbiolo grapes variety for production, there is a difference in the vineyards' soil composition for growing the same. Keeping the nutritional difference aside, that brings out the characteristic tannin strength for the two, the soil carries calcareous marl in it.

This calcareous marl is a lime-rich composition that has a clay base and a prominent feature of consideration for Nebbiolo wines. This is used for increasing the pH levels of the soil. It helps in making the soil more alkaline, which further helps in increasing the acidity of the Nebbiolo grapes.

Since acidity is an important factor to consider for wines, the calcareous marl plays a significant role in the cultivation of Nebbiolo grapes.

The Difference in Storage Rules

The Difference in Storage Rules

For a perfect Barolo, it needs to be stored for a minimum period of three years of age before release. On the other hand, a Barbaresco requires only two years of age before release. The reason for this difference is due to the tannin strength in the two wines.

A Barolo being a little heavy-handed on tannins requires a longer sitting for better aging of the tannins. The aging period is also essential for enhancing the fruity taste of the wines. In between the different Barolo and Barbaresco available, the aging period can be different for all the variants.       

  • Barolo – three years of aging     
  • Barolo Riserva – five years of aging    
  • Barbaresco – two years of aging    
  • Barbaresco Riserva – age four years 

The Difference in The History

Despite coming from the same region of Italy, these two wines share a different history from each other.

History of Barolo

History of Barolo

The Barolo wine is about 50 years older than the Barbaresco wine. It was named after Marchesa de Baroloaround the 1850s.  At the time when Barolo wine was titled the same, there was a great difference between in its taste and texture.

It was not the wine we see and taste today. Earlier, Barolo wine was made to taste like a rich and sweet red wine with a fruity flavor. It has notes and tones very similar or close to the ruby port of the Shiraz for its fruit-forward taste.

Because the Barolo wine is very strong on the tannin end, the sweetness worked perfectly to complement the astringing flavor.

History of Barbaresco

History of Barbaresco

Barbaresco wines came into existence in the 1894s. This wine had a very similar stylistic approach to Barolo, but it indeed had its own differences. Because of being hit by Phylloxera during the two World Wars, this region could not get into the production of wines.

Later, after World War II came to an end, Gaia, a family producer of wines, started to recultivate the lost flavors of Barbaresco wines. They brought back the establishments, and the requires necessities to produce the finest quality Barbaresco in the country.

This event marked a great step towards the establishment of Produttori del Barbaresco in 1958. It is a consortium of small producers who are into the production of wine.

The Styles of Winemaking

The Styles of Winemaking

There has always been a controversial argument when it comes to the winemaking process. Some go for the modernist approach of French barrique barrels made with oak, while some prefer the traditionalist use of the big-sized Botti from the Slavonian oak.

These two winemaking procedures are not seen with the Barolo and Barbaresco. The two wines have a more vintage requirement for wine production that can be a bit flexible depending on the vineyard. Certain vineyard sites known as 'crus' have developed in prominence when it comes to Barolo wine. The same trend is being observed in Barbaresco wine as well.

Tannin Levels

Tannin Levels

As mentioned earlier, the tannin levels are much higher in the case of Barolo wine. This difference is brought in due to the difference in the nutrition levels of the soil in the two. A Barolo wine is strong in taste and can come off as sharp for a lot of people. A Barolo can be highly strong in tannins. A strength good enough to make your mouth dry after consumption.

A Barbaresco wine, on the other hand, is quite soft and in taste. A higher level of tannins brings in an astringent taste with it. This gives a bitter taste to the wine bringing it on similar lines to black tea or coffee. Red wines are stronger in the levels of tannin as compared to white wines.

Aroma

Aroma

Both the wines are quite aromatic. Two of the wines have a floral tone with a prominent aroma of rose in it. The flowery aroma is where the similarity stops. Due to a high tannin level in Barolo wine, one can sense more astringency. As a result, this reduces the floral fragrance slightly in comparison to Barbaresco wine. Even though there is a huge similarity in the fragrance, you might get notes of tar balancing out the floral in Barolo wine at first.

Difference in Acidity

Difference in Acidity

Nebbiolo grapes, the source of both wines, are considered to have a very pronounced level of acidity. Despite that, you will not find the Nebbiolo grape overpowering as it is balanced to perfection. However, the lower tannins provide a more bright and ripe acidity to the Barbaresco.

The Barolo, on the other hand, is slightly softer in comparison with a much smoother finish. It does not spike your palate with a wave of acidity that comes from the Nebbiolo grape. Rather, Barolo is very subtle in its approach.

Difference in Pricing

Difference in Pricing

When it comes to Barolo vs. Barbaresco wines for pricing, they stand pretty similar and close. However, some Barolo wines are a bit more expensive than the Barbaresco. The reason for this difference in price is due to the difference in aging. Since a Barolo is aged more than a Barbaresco, it tends to be more expensive than the other.

Difference in Flavor

Difference in Flavor

A Barolo wine has a very fruity taste that comes from the Nebbiolo grapes. But these fruit flavors are not very bright and jumpy. It is rather very subtle, bold, and rich. Barolo does not have a very playful and light nature. One can get a sense of very prominent raspberry, and cherry tones combine with light notes of cocoa and a hint of anise in a Barolo.

Barbaresco, on the other hand, is very bright and playful in terms of flavors. They offer a wide range of flavors to the consumer, all with different notes of tones of fruits. The more common spikes are those of berries like strawberries, raspberries, paired with candied notes and some dimension of allspice anise.

Different Food Pairings

Different Food Pairings

Both Barolo and Barbaresco have a different food palate to pair them with. Because of its intense tannin concentration, a Barolo wine works perfectly with game meat, duck, and other foods with a pronounced flavor. You can also pair it with some cream and cheesy dishes which are a bit sweeter for diversity.

Barbaresco goes amazingly well with light food varieties like delicate veal. You can also pair it with grilled steak and vegetables or a perfect pie of pizza.

Summing it Up – Barolo vs Barbaresco

Both Barolo and Barbaresco Italian wines, despite being from the same region, have a lot in common. If you are into bold and strong flavors bending more towards the bitter end, then a Barolo is a perfect choice. If you like to keep it light and fruity, then a Barbaresco is the best option.

The taste and aromas Barolo and Barbaresco wines have to offer are truly brilliant and worth enjoying. With the perfect food pairing, you can give yourself a delectable royal treat with both these wines.

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