Barolo in History

Barolo in History

Jul 15, 2022


Ilaria Rosa

The history of Barolo begins with the Ligurian Stazielli population, an ancient population belonging to the largest group of Ligurians, that about 2500 years ago gave life to the first primitive vineyards to cultivate the vines. The Gauls were the first admirers of this special nectar, whose conquest of the territories beyond the Alps was also encouraged by their predilection for the wine produced in those places. Subsequently, even the ancient Romans were struck by the quality of the wine in the Alba area, in the Langhe, so much so that Julius Caesar, returning from the Gallic War, brought a large quantity of it to Rome.
Nebbiolo was heard of only in the Middle Ages; in 1268, in the castle of Rivoli, some historical documents were found where the “Nibiol” was mentioned.

It was during the Renaissance period that the cultivation of this vine and consequently also of its final product developed.
In 1751, a group of Piedmontese diplomats sent a batch of "Barol" to London; needless to say it was a great success and soon afterwards the real notoriety arrived. In those years the future President of the United States Thomas Jefferson was on a trip to Europe, and after tasting the wonderful nectar he described its goodness in his diaries defining it: "almost as sweet as Bordeaux and lively as Champagne". The taste of Barolo of those years was thus represented and described, as a sparkling wine with a fresh and sweet taste, since it was not yet known how to transform the sugars contained in the must into alcohol.

The so-called "modern" Barolo was born around 1830, thanks to the Marquises Falletti, the great French enologist Louis Oudart and Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour. The famous finance minister of Louis XIV of France had a great-granddaughter, Juliette Colbert who married the Marquis Carlo Tancredi Falletti, descendant of a family of bankers, large landowners in the municipality of Alba already in 1250. In 1838 Carlo passed away, so Giulia became the owner of all the estates of the Falletti family. He hired the great French enologist Louis Oudart, a great expert in techniques used for the best French wines, which he put into practice on the wine produced in the possessions of the marquise. Thus began the history of modern Barolo, it became so popular that it was on everyone's lips, and even intrigued the King Carlo Alberto of Savoy.

This excellent new wine was talked about in all the courts of Europe, so a royal request was expressed and Giulia sent 325 barrels to the King. A barrel a day, except for the 40 days of Lent, so that the King and his entire court could delight each day with the precious wine produced in the famous estates of the marquise. At the court of Turin, Barolo was defined “wine of the kings, king of wines“. Interested and fascinated by these fantastic wines that were produced in the Barolo area, Carlo Alberto di Savoia bought the properties of Verduno and Pollenzo. The entire production chain, from the care of the vineyards to the production of wine in the various estates, was placed in the hands of General Staglieno, a great enologist who was passionate about French techniques. Another landowner was Emanuele Alberto Guerrieri count of Mirafiori, son of Vittorio Emanuele ll and Rosa Vercellana "la bela Rosin" who owned the lands of Fontanafredda in Serralunga d'Alba and the Castello della Volta in Barolo, with the related surrounding farmhouses. Another great admirer who contributed to making Barolo famous was, as already mentioned, Camillo Benso count of Cavour. He had traveled extensively beyond the Alps and had French culture, when he became mayor of Grinzane, he invited Luois Oudart to take care of the vineyards and the production of wine, in the surrounding family properties. It was thanks to their collaboration that a more modern style of Barolo was born, and in 1844 it was bottled for the first time, as a dry and still wine. In 1864 the Marquise Falletti died and between the 19th and 20th centuries all the vineyards on her estates were gradually sold to the sharecroppers and the farmers who cultivated them. All the lands are fragmented, creating many properties, which still today are a particular characteristic of the Langhe that makes it look like Burgundy.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Barolo became such a big celebrity that counterfeits were feared, and for this very reason the brand began to be protected. During the First World War, the phylloxera arrived, one of the greatest calamities in the history of viticulture, an insect from the American continent where it coexisted without too much damage; unfortunately it was not the same for the European vines where the encounter was devastating. Fortunately the Barolo survived.

To encourage and protect the cultivation of this great wine, in 1909 the Agricultural Consortium defined the production boundaries. It was the beginning of an important business.
The plants grew exponentially, in the period between the two wars, but the production aimed to invest more in quantity than quality. In 1927 the “Decree on typical wines” was published in the Official Gazette, which officially delimits the Barolo area and in the same year the geological zones of the production areas were defined. Barolo has now become one of the greatest wines in the world. The production area of Barolo is about 2000 hectares, and is located in the north-west of Italy, in the southern part of the Piedmont Region close to the South-Western Alps, within a geographical area called Langhe. An area that includes 11 different municipalities, some entirely (Barolo, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d'Alba) and others only partially (La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, Roddi, Verduno, Cherasco, Diano d'Alba, Novello and Grinzane Cavour) .

The production specification provides for the exclusive vinification of Nebbiolo grapes grown within the boundaries of the territory, unchanged since 1966. Since 2011, the new plants have been restricted and to date the annual production is around 14 million bottles. At a geological level, the territory is composed of calcareous marl or sedimentary rocks composed of clay and calcium carbonate, and of sandstone or sandy sedimentary rocks. A great wine that is recognized for its transparent ruby color, which turns towards orange as the years pass.

It is the great bond with the land that makes Barolo unique and unmistakable all over the world.

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