Known as the ‘King of Red Wine’, Barolo is wine high in tannin and meant to be aged at least a decade (or two) before enjoying. If you judge a wine by its colour, Barolo will sucker-punch you in the face every time, as this wine is a heavy hitter. When I first started getting into wine, my wine mentor often referred to Barolo as getting ‘kicked in the face by a Ballerina’.
The reason for this is that Barolo has a rose petal-like perfume on the nose, however, when you sip it, it has a tannic smack that hits you like like Rocky Balboa.
Nebbiolo, the grape used to make Barolo, is thin-skinned, much like the Pinot Noir grape, meaning you get a somewhat light coloured wine compared to its astringent tannin and high acidity bite.
While this wine is known of its tar and roses fragrance, you can also expect flavours of raspberry, cherry, cocoa, licorice, and truffles on both the nose and palate, making it perfect for a feast fit for a king.
Barolo and Food Pairing
Piedmont, where Barolo hails, is a land of rich food, full of pungent truffles, wild mushroom risottos, toma cheeses (cheese made by the farmer himself), and game dishes. And it’s no surprise that Barolo loves these foods as they have been enjoyed together over centuries.
Barolo is simply wonderful with game birds such as Quail, Goose, Pheasant, or Duck, as well as Pork Chops, due to the tannin in this red wine-loving rich fatty meats. The fruity and earthy flavours of this wine also make it excellent with White Alba Truffles, Venison, Wild Boar, Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Veal Chops, and Stewed Rabbit.
For Cheese pairings, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Robiola, stinky Taleggio, and Parmesan Cheese all make excellent dance partners.
Another amazing pairing is Barolo and Wild Mushroom Risotto. The creaminess of the risotto softens the tannin in the wine, allowing you to focus on the fruit. If you’re going the vegan route, Barolo and Butternut Squash Ravioli, Goat Cheese and Beet Ravioli, or Sweet Potato Pasta is spectacular. These dishes are creamy, yet slightly sweet, which enhances the berry aromas of this wine.
Surprisingly, Barolo goes well with certain desserts, such as Gelato and Berries. If you’re dining out, save a little bit of your glass of Barolo and try it out with a dessert that is slightly sweet.
Opening a bottle of Barolo is a special occasion (due to its years spent maturing), and as such, it should usually accompany a grand meal, such as a stew that has been lovingly cooked all day, Osso Buco, or perhaps a rich Truffle Risotto. Another idea is to lay a bottle down when your son or daughter is young, and perhaps crack it open in two decades or more to celebrate a special event, such as graduating from college.
Although this is more simple fare, we love Barolo with Meat Bolognese as well, which is a meaty tomato based sauce.
Best Food with Barolo
- Prime Rib
- Wild Mushroom Risotto
- Butternut Squash Ravioli
- Roasted Goose
Prime Rib Roast and Barolo
Prime Rib is the fattiest cut of beef, which is perfect for Barolo’s harsh tannin. The high-fat/protein combo tames Barolo’s bite allowing you to appreciate the wine’s earthy truffle, cocoa and dark fruit flavours. The earthiness of the wine complements the subtle earthy flavours of the meat, elevating this pairing even further. Similarly, Barolo is exceptional with Ribeye Steak.
Wild Mushroom Risotto and Barolo
The high fat content of Mushroom Risotto (from the butter and cheese) makes this the perfect foil for softening Barolo’s tannin. Meanwhile the earthy truffle like aromas of the wine blend perfectly with the wild mushrooms in this dish.
Venison Stew and Barolo
A rich, slow cooked Venison stew is amazing with Barolo provided fattier cuts of meat are used in the stew. Barolo needs that high fat content to smooth out its tannin punch. However, you will be able to get away with leaner cuts of venison if the Barolo has had time to age. Ageing a decade or more in the bottle, Barolo will smooth out on its own.
Barolo’s ripe dark fruit flavours mask the gaminess of Venison, and the truffle-like flavours in this wine goes perfect with any earthy vegetables you may have added.
Butternut Squash Ravioli and Barolo Pairing
For a Butternut Squash Ravioli, look no further than a Barolo. The tannin in this wine will cut right through the butter fried butternut squash, while the earthy flavours of this wine complement the butternut squash and and additional herbs and spices.
Butternut Squash Ravioli is creamy, yet slightly sweet, which further enhances the berry aromas of this wine.
Roasted Goose and Wine Pairing
Goose is one fatty bird, and if you’ve been following along, it’s no secret that Barolo’s high tannin bite loves fat. We would select a bottle aged Barolo in this case as while Goose is fatty, it’s also a more delicate meat that a roast of beef. An aged Barolo will still have that much needed tannin, but it will also have a balanced acidity that won’t overwhelm the meaty goose flavours.
Understanding the Label
Traditionally, Barolo is aged in the barrel for a minimum 18 months, unless noted as Riserva, where it will spend five years in a cask.