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Barolo vs Brunello

Two of the most well-known and esteemed wines from Italy are Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

Both have distinctive qualities and flavors since they are manufactured from several grape varietals that are grown in various parts of Italy. While Brunello di Montalcino is produced in Tuscany using the Sangiovese grape, Barolo is produced in the Piedmont region using the Nebbiolo vine.

Barolo is known for its high tannins, full-bodied structure, and intense flavors of red fruit, tar, and roses. It is considered one of Italy’s most age-worthy wines, with some vintages capable of aging for decades.

Brunello di Montalcino, on the other hand, is known for its rich, complex flavors of dark fruit, leather, and tobacco, with firm tannins and a long finish. It is also a wine that can age for decades, becoming more nuanced and elegant over time.

While both wines are often referred to as “The King of Wines,” they have distinct differences that make them unique.

In this article, we will explore the primary differences between Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, including their grape varieties, growing regions, winemaking techniques, and flavor profiles. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or simply looking to expand your knowledge of Italian wines, this article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of these two iconic wines.

Origins of Barolo and Brunello

Barolo: The Wine of Kings

Barolo is a red wine that originates from the Piedmont region of Italy. It is made from the Nebbiolo grape, which is grown in the Langhe hills of Piedmont.

The wine is named after the village of Barolo, which is located in the heart of the Langhe hills. The wine is known for its deep ruby color, high tannins, and complex flavors of cherry, licorice, and tobacco.

Barolo has a long and rich history. It was first produced in the early 19th century by the Marchesi di Barolo, a noble family that owned vineyards in the region.

The wine was initially made for the family’s personal consumption, but it soon became popular among the local aristocracy. In the late 19th century, Barolo gained international recognition when it won awards at wine competitions in Paris and London.

Brunello: The Pride of Montalcino

Brunello is a red wine that originates from the town of Montalcino in Tuscany, Italy. It is made from the Sangiovese grape, which is also known as Brunello in the local dialect. The wine is named after the town of Montalcino, which is located on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding countryside.

Brunello has a relatively short history compared to Barolo. It was first produced in the late 19th century by a local farmer named Ferruccio Biondi-Santi. He developed a unique winemaking technique that involved aging the wine in large oak barrels for an extended period. This technique helped to produce a wine that was rich, complex, and long-lived.

Today, Brunello is one of the most prestigious Italian wines. It is known for its deep ruby color, intense aroma of red fruit, and flavors of cherry, leather, and tobacco. The wine is aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels and then for an additional four months in the bottle before it is released for sale.

Both Barolo and Brunello are highly regarded Italian wines that are made from distinct grape varieties and grown in different regions of Italy. While Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape and grown in Piedmont, Brunello is made from the Sangiovese grape and grown in Tuscany. Both wines have a rich history and are known for their complex flavors and aromas.

Understanding the Grapes

Nebbiolo: The Power Behind Barolo

Nebbiolo is a red grape variety that is grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is the primary grape used to produce Barolo, which is known as the “King of Wines”. Nebbiolo is a difficult grape to grow and requires a long growing season to fully ripen. It is known for its high acidity, tannins, and complex aromas and flavors.

Barolo is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes and is aged for a minimum of three years before release. The wine is known for its full-bodied structure, high tannins, and complex aromas of dried fruit, flowers, and spices. Barolo is often described as having a “tar and roses” aroma, which is unique to the Nebbiolo grape.

Sangiovese: The Soul of Brunello

Sangiovese is a red grape variety that is grown throughout Italy, but it is most commonly associated with the Tuscany region.

It is the primary grape used to produce Brunello di Montalcino, which is known as the “King of Tuscan Wines”. Sangiovese is a versatile grape that can produce a wide range of wine styles, from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex.

Brunello di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and is aged for a minimum of four years before release. The wine is known for its full-bodied structure, high acidity, and complex aromas of red fruit, leather, and tobacco.

Brunello di Montalcino is often described as having a “terroir-driven” flavor profile, which is unique to the Sangiovese grape grown in the Montalcino region.

In summary, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are two distinct grape varieties that are used to produce two of Italy’s most famous wines, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

Both grapes are known for their high acidity, tannins, and complex aromas and flavors. Barolo is made exclusively from Nebbiolo grapes, while Brunello di Montalcino is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes.

Taste and Flavor Profiles

Taste Profile of Barolo

Barolo is known for its complex and intense flavor profile. It is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes, which are known for their high tannin and acidity.

The wine has a deep ruby red color and is full-bodied, with flavors of cherry, raspberry, and plum. With age, Barolo develops flavors of licorice, leather, and tar. The wine also has a spicy, floral aroma, with hints of rose petals, cinnamon, and white pepper.

Barolo has a high tannin content, which gives it a dry and astringent mouthfeel. The wine is also known for its high acidity, which makes it a good pairing for rich, fatty foods. The wine is often aged for several years before it is consumed, which allows it to develop a more complex flavor profile.

Taste Profile of Brunello

Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and has a lighter color than Barolo. It is also full-bodied, with high acidity and lower levels of tannin than Barolo.

The wine has a complex flavor profile, with flavors of cherry, raspberry, and strawberry. With age, Brunello develops flavors of truffle, herbs, and chocolate. The wine also has a spicy aroma, with hints of cinnamon, pepper, and fig.

Brunello has a high acidity, which makes it a good pairing for rich, fatty foods. The wine is also known for its earthy flavor profile, with hints of tobacco, leather, and spices. Brunello is often aged for several years before it is consumed, which allows it to develop a more complex flavor profile.

Winemaking and Aging Process

Winemaking in Piedmont

Barolo is a full-bodied red wine that is made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region of Italy.

The winemaking process involves maceration and fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by aging in oak barrels for a minimum of two years and up to four years for the Riserva. The wine is then aged in the bottle for an additional year before release.

The aging potential of Barolo is high, with some wines aging for up to 30 years. The Barolo DOCG, which covers the Langhe and some sub-zones, has strict aging requirements, which ensure that the wine is of the highest quality.

The wine must be aged for a minimum of three years, with at least two years in oak barrels. The Riserva must be aged for a minimum of five years, with at least three years in oak barrels.

Winemaking in Tuscany

Brunello di Montalcino is a moderate tannin, age-worthy red wine made in Central Italy. It is produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes in the Tuscany region.

The winemaking process involves maceration and fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by aging in oak barrels for a minimum of two years and up to five years for the Riserva. The wine is then aged in the bottle for an additional year before release.

The aging potential of Brunello di Montalcino is high, with some wines aging for up to 25 years. The wine must be aged for a minimum of three years before release, with at least two years in oak barrels for the regular bottling and four years for the Riserva.

Both Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino are aged in oak barrels, which gives the wine its characteristic flavors and aromas.

The type of oak used, the age of the barrel, and the length of time the wine spends in the barrel all affect the final product. The use of oak barrels is a traditional winemaking technique that has been used for centuries in Italy and around the world.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Paul Kushner

I have always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. My restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time I turned 17 I was serving tables, and by 19 I was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, I opened my first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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