In Barolo, 11 Distinct Villages Create the King of Wines

Traditionally, Barolo has been made by blending Nebbiolo from different vineyards and from more than one of the 11 villages. While that approach is still the backbone of the denomination, many producers also make single-designation Barolos from the 170 officially delimited crus or vineyard sites (technically known as Additional Geographical Mentions or Definitions) spread out among the villages.

Of the 11 villages, only Barolo, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d’Alba lie entirely within the denomination. La Morra and Monforte d’Alba are also key towns. Together, these five communities make up Barolo’s core villages. Novello and Verduno are gaining in prestige, while Grinzane Cavour, Diano d’Alba, Cherasco and Roddi, with their small output, make up the lesser-known villages.

The recently released 2016 vintage produced some of the greatest Barolos ever, thanks to near-perfect conditions for fickle Nebbiolo.

Unlike 2015, which was extremely warm and dry, or the exceedingly cool, wet 2014, the 2016 season offered a classic, late-ripening vintage. These wines feature Barolo’s quintessential aromas of red berry, rose, underbrush and camphor. Most are fresh and delicious, as they showcase archetypal flavors of cherry, raspberry, baking spice and tobacco. The best combine structure, balance, finesse and great aging potential.

Although 2016 was generally outstanding throughout the denomination’s 11 villages, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and Verduno performed particularly well. Variations among the various villages, while more evident in less fortunate vintages, play a decisive role in how well Nebbiolo matures. This is thanks to different soils, altitudes and exposures.

The picture-perfect village of Barolo, dominated by its medieval castle, is the birthplace and namesake of the denomination.

Positioned on a high plateau surrounded by vine-covered hills, soils in Barolo are principally grayish-blue marls that originate from the Tortonian age, known as Sant’Agata Fossili marls. They are a key element in the fragrance, elegance and depth found in the village’s wines.

Wines from Barolo age extremely well, but are generally approachable earlier than the more austere, tannic wines from Serralunga and Monforte. The latter, formed during the Serravallian age, have sandstone soils, which contain more limestone.

The Barolo village boasts one of the most famous vineyard sites in the denomination, Cannubi. Although use of this historic name has been expanded over the years to include adjacent areas, the heart of the legendary Cannubi hill has long been celebrated for the quality of its grapes.

Besides southeast exposure, the historic Cannubi site has unique soils where bluish gray marls merge with sand and sandstone to yield wines with exquisite perfumes, finesse and longevity. Other important vineyard areas in the town include Brunate, Cannubi Boschis and San Lorenzo.

The village is also home to some of the most storied and iconic cellars, including Cantina Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi, Brezza and Marchesi di Barolo. 

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