A rose dipped in tar

“Would you be interested in meeting a beautiful woman with a delicious Barolo?” he asked.

How could we say no? Barolo, from the Nebbiolo grape, is one of Italy’s most prized wines. The name “Nebbiolo” is thought to refer to the clouds of fog that so often carpet the vines up in Northern Italy’s hilly Piedmont. Up through the 18th century, delayed maturation due to colder temperatures often meant that the grapes would freeze before harvest, making Barolo a sweet wine. Techniques developed in the 1800s created the world-famous Barolo of today, with its floral yet earthy aromas, like a rose dipped in tar.

So off we went to seek out this beautiful woman and her Barolo.

What we discovered was not one beautiful woman but three – three sisters or tre fie as they say in Piedmontese – called Denise, Serena, and Valentina.

And it was not one Barolo but three (one of which – from 60-year-old vines, handpicked grapes, no chemicals – will hopefully be included in your upcoming Italian collection).

They had come to town from the misty hills of La Morra, one of only 11 villages in Northern Italy allowed to make Barolo (thus bottles that run from $60 to $90 here in the US).

The winemaking tradition of Piedmont goes back several thousand years to the Greek settlers who dubbed the area Oenotrua, or Land of Vines, for the stunning number of indigenous grapes that seem to sprout up everywhere here.

We sat down with Denise, and her father Gian Piero, who exchanged words in a mixture of Italian and the ancient Piemontese dialect (similar to French), before pulling out a bottle of Barolo, in “grandfather’s style.” That description will be important to anyone familiar with Piedmont and the “Barolo Wars” of the last two generations. More on that in a future letter…

Having seen a picture of their grandfather, Carlo Marrone, we expected a wine as formidable as the man himself.

We were not disappointed.

More on that… and the “Barolo Wars”… next time…

For now, please enjoy Julien’s latest weekly wine tasting below…