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Tannic Panic! Issue #1: The Royal Tannin-Bombs
Barolo AKA "The King of Wines"
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This week we’re just jumping out of our Jimmies to talk to you about Barolo — the self-proclaimed "King of Wines" (go ahead and ask it). Made 100% from the humble Nebbiolo grape, this Italian big boi hails from the Piedmont region, which is either a picturesque corner of northern Italy, or the medical term for a bunion** (**check sources).
Don't let its deep garnet color fool you - this isn't your grandma's cranberry juice.
It's a robust, full-bodied red with flavors that punch like Popeye – commonly featuring notes of cherries, tar, licorice, and rose petals.
Its tannic structure and high acidity allow it to age like a 1000-year egg — important because to qualify as Barolo the wine must age for at least 36 months before release onto the market (at least 18 of which in oak). That means that the youngest Barolo vintages you’ll find will be no less than 3 years old.
In spite of being famed for the way it develops over time (some Barolo peaking millions of years after bottling), you don’t have to wait decades for a bottle of Barolo to mature to enjoy one – and you don’t have to spend your last few coppers neither.
Here are a couple of recommendations of youthful Barolos for you that won’t break the bank or call for a new battery in your sundial:
The Budget Bottle: 2018 Rosa dell’Olmo Barolo (VALUE PICK!)
Nab this puppy for $15 at your local Trader Joe’s. That’s right – a worthwhile Barolo for under $20.
The glass greets you with aromas of flowers, sour cherries, crushed rocks, and hints of freshly opened Band-Aid (the good kind) – what more do you need?
Tart black cherry flavor and high tannins leave the inside of your mouth feeling like Yoda's ear lobes on a hot Summer’s day (the good kind!). It's dry as hell, but that's what makes it so great.
Often, when you're talking about wines in the $10-15 range, you'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint precise regions and varietals. But this whippersnapper has a real sense of place – Barolo!
Now let’s be Frank (or anyone else for that matter): This is a value Barolo, so you can’t expect quite the poetry-bottled that a higher price point might deliver you – but it DOES deliver on value. Value poetry-bottled — RIP Shel Silverstein.
So next time you're at Trader Joe's, skip the Two Buck Chuck and grab a bottle of the 2018 Rosa dell’Olmo Barolo. An excellent illustration of a young Barolo worth drinking.
The Mid-Range Jumper: 2017 Alberto Ballarin Barolo
Picture the sun setting over an Italian vineyard in your glass: garnet orange with just a hint of brick red as you graze the horizon. It's like the Mona Lisa of wine, if the Mona Lisa was good.
The bouquet will sweep you off your feet faster than Billy Crystal having what she’s having — a flower shop stuffed into a bottle with an aromatic frenzy of rose petals and violets. But wait… there's more!
Dried red fruits – cranberries, cherries, and strawberries – trailed by a whisper of tobacco. This wine isn’t all sweet talk and no action, each sip leaves you wanting more.
Pair with some pecorino Romano cheese or a mushroom pasta bathing in a red wine reduction sauce (which I’ll be bathing in later).
Specs: High tannins, high acidity and a medium-plus body that could rock a one-piece bathing suit. All of this for just $35. Wa-wa-wee-wa!
So, after swirling, sniffing, sipping, savoring, taking a nap, ripping off my mustache, and tasting it again, I’m scoring this Barolo a solid 93 points.
This one might be a little harder to get your greasy little meat hooks on, but if you can track down a bottle, it’s an absolute must-try.
The “Higher” End: 2018 Fratelli Alessandria Barolo Del Comune di Verduno
This little corksucker runs in the $50-60 range, putting it squarely out of reach for many people’s everyday drinking budgets. But it’s a good one and a worthwhile get if you are exploring the world of Barolo. Quintessential Barolo color: medium ruby with garnet rim, not too dark, not too light – welcome to the Goldilocks zone
A tar coated Morello cherry fills your glass. For the kids out there who haven’t had a morello cherry, eat one and learn. Rose petals in the background. Oh yeah, and orange rind.
Specs: Medium+ body, medium+ tannin.
Juicy, bone dry, long finish – I’M STILL TASTIN IT AS I’M YAPPIN AT YA.
This is a beautifully complex wine that evolves in the glass – let it breathe, you won’t regret it.
Scores 92+ in my book, delicious—and really the level of quality you should expect at this price point.
So, next time you're having a lasagna (or any hearty meal) and you can’t decide what to drink with it, don’t panic — invite your new pal Barolo to the party.
Isaac & Zach