Traditional vs. Modern Winemaking Styles in Barolo

Slovenien Botti’s

One of the fun aspects of trying out various wines from the same region/vineyard is the opportunity to discern wines made of different styles. Nowhere is this more fun than trying out the 2 prominent winemaking styles in the Piedmont area making the famous Barolo’s from the Nebbiolo grape.

In a nut shell, there are two schools of Barolo – ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’.

‘Traditional’ wines are made with long maceration and aged in larger barrels (made of Eastern European oak) called botti for two years or more; the advantage of this winemaking method is that the combination of long maceration and long aging in large barrels gives an extraordinary complexity and a savory character that can’t be created any other way. The disadvantage, especially in the past, is that some producers would use these large barrels for many years and wouldn’t look after them very well, which can give the wine off aromas and flavors.

French Oak Barrels

‘Modern’ wines are typically made using shorter macerations and small French oak barrels, at least partly (and sometimes entirely) new; the advantage of this method is that it creates wines with a glossy, easy-to-like personality that appeals to wine drinkers who are used to similarly-styled wines from Bordeaux and the New World; the disadvantage is that it creates wines that aren’t very distinctive, individual or representative of their ‘terroir.’