Barolo vs Barbaresco | What's the difference?
Alright, we're talking about two of our favourite Italian red wines today; Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG. These are some seriously top-shelf vinos, folks - the kind of stuff you break out when you want to impress someone, or just treat yourself to something special.
Now, Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG are both made from the nebbiolo grape, which is known for producing some pretty bold and full-flavoured wines. But even though they share a grape, these two wines are definitely not the same. Here's the three need-to-know differences.
First off, we're dealing with two different places. Barolo comes from about 11 villages in the southwest of Alba at a slightly higher elevation, while Barbaresco comes from just four villages northeast of Alba and a slightly lower elevation. So right off the bat, we're dealing with some different terroir.
And that terroir definitely makes a difference. Nebbiolo grown in Barolo ripens at a slower pace given the altitude, and so the wines are typically more perfumed and floral. Barbaresco, with its lower altitude, can ripen nebbiolo more quickly, resulting in wines that are fruitier but a bit less perfumed.
Here's the other key thing; both of these wines require some serious ageing to allow their acidity and tannins to soften. Barolo DOCG has to be aged for at least three years before it can be released, with at least eighteen months in oak barrels. Barbaresco DOCG requires a minimum of two years, with at least nine months in oak. And you’ll usually see this reflected in the price point too, with Barolo typically commanding a more premium price.
Both Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG are fantastically complex wines where there’s generally heaps to discover, from roses and dried flowers to cranberry, sour cherry, tobacco, leather and cedar, with mushroom and wet forest-floor in aged examples.
Here’s what splits them though, given that terroir - Barbaresco is probably a little more fruity if that’s your thing, whereas Barolo is bringing those florals and aged complexity given how long it spends in the winery. Whatever your preference though, both Barolo and Barbaresco are amazing wines that any self-respecting mofo should try at least once to see what they’re about.
So there’s your key need-to-know differences between Barolo and Barbaresco, but if you’re not ready to commit to the pricepoint yet then there’s also “Langhe” nebbiolo from the region too; they’re likely to be more fruit-forward given they won’t be aged as long and aren’t designed to be as complex. If you're looking for something to drink younger and fresher to see what nebbiolo from the region is about before you take the plunge with a Barolo or a Barbaresco, “Langhe” wines are your best bets.