The elegant and seductive red wine, Barolo, is well-known the world over as the King of Wines (and Wine of Kings); but this noble Italian wine made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes is used to make an aromatised, fortified wine that can no longer stay the secret of Piemonte, or of Italy: Barolo Chinato.
Barolo Chinato is the definition of harmony. It evidences the perfect balance between bitter and sweet and has a lovely perfumed, herbal nose and a rich palate of tart cherries, spices and bitter-sweet chocolate.
It’s thought Barolo Chinato was invented in the late 1800s by pharmacist Dr. Giuseppe Cappellano, and the people of Barolo traditionally drunk it as a remedy for stomach aches, colds, and other ailments. (The older generations even attribute their longevity to the drink.)
Recipes for Barolo Chinato are closely guarded by the wine-making families of Barolo. The original recipe by Giulio Cocchi—the Florentine pastry chef who settled in Asti and popularised Barolo Chinato—was handed down through the generations written on a piece of paper and is used today by the Bava Family, who own and operate Cocchi.
Although we can never know the exact recipe, the base Barolo wine is aromatised with quinine bark (bark from the South American cinchona calisaya tree) and gentian root (a bitter herb apparently good for liver health) and other herbs and spices, including rhubarb root, cardamon seeds, coriander seeds, and peppermint.
If you’re ever in Piemonte, you must try Barolo Chinato, and you must try it with chocolate. Although Barolo Chinato can be consumed as a digestif, when it’s paired with chocolate or chocolate-based desserts, something magical happens in your mouth.
It’s true many sweet wines pair with chocolate, but Barolo Chinato will lift you up to float in the nebbia, fog (which engulfs the surrounding area around harvest time and is perhaps where the name Nebbiolo comes from).
This magical pairing between Barolo Chinato and chocolate is perhaps because Barolo Chinato is a zen wine (as the Bava family called it), meaning it is well-balanced, and as such, its sweetness is not overpowering. But whatever the reason, Barolo Chinato is the perfect partner for chocolate. It’s as though Barolo Chinato was made for chocolate, made to waltz it to the end of the night.
Feature photo: Barolo Chinato paired with a chocolate fondant pudding at La Libera restaurant in Alba, Piemonte, Italy
Note: These wineries were visited on a wine study tour of Piemonte with the Wine Scholar Guild.