Questo sito può utilizzare cookie di terze parti. Continuando la navigazione, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie in base alla normativa vigente. Per saperne di più, clicca qui

Con merenda sinoira in cantina
Con guide turistiche professionali
Segui un vero "trifolao" ed il suo cane
Botteghe tradizionali, mercati e produttori
Storie del territorio, cantine, degustazioni
Immersi nei paesaggi collinari UNESCO
Visita esclusiva dietro le quinte di un Rione
Impara a fare la pasta e altre ricette tipiche
bootstrap slider


As a local guide if I say "I'm going to take you for a Barolo tasting in a wine cellar" I have not say it all. There are two Barolo to be discovered, two different life visions that for decades fought against each other. It is not just about aging techniques -big barrel vs. smaller ones- but a generational conflict and the culture of an entire geographical area.


It all started back in the 1970s when a young farmer, son of a small wine producer, had understood Barolo needed a new identity to be appreciated on a larger scale. Barolo wasn't known, it wasn't well marketed, it certainly was very far from what the international critics would expect from an aged red wine: the taste wasn't reflecting the new era people were living. This man, Elio Altare, drove in 1976 with its Fiat 500 car to Burgundy, France, known to be the first-class of wines. Once Elio has arrived at the first winery he met the owner of the cellar while he was loading its fancy car, a Porsche, with suitcases, leaving for the French Riviera where his own boat was docked: that was the lifestyle of wine-makers in France.

The town of Barolo dominated by the castle

In La Morra, Barolo and surrounding villages life was much harsher: most of the younger generations were emigrating to Turin, looking for full-time jobs at the FIAT car factory. Farmers in Piemonte were poor since profits coming from selling grapes to few big wineries, were barely enough to survive. Making wine at home was  just to have enough for the family needs. Selling wines at a higher level was not an option and the product just so and so: it was made in moldy cellars, with dirty barrels inherited from grandparents, kept as a treasure because expensive but too old to give anything to the wine.

It took efforts and many risks to change things around but Elio Altare along with its friends, known as the "Barolo Boys", today they can say to had started - and completed- a revolution. During the 1980s these young wine producers worked together improving the wine's quality. They did blind tastings with each other wines, sharing what was done differently that specific year. They were looking for the best wine as possible, enjoyable soon after bottling and not necessarily after 25 years or so like with traditional Barolo. 

The Cappella del Barolo, a symbol of the area

The big revolution consisted mainly of two big changes. First, the pruning of the vines has became more focused on reducing the grapes quantity believing that less give higher quality. On top of the regular pruning sessions held in winter, now more grapes were cut off the vines few weeks before harvesting, in August, helping the plant to concentrate the final stages of ripening on lesser fruits. Chiara Boschis, the only girl within the Barolo boys, got yelled by her father after being caught cutting healthy grapes off the vines. So here's coming the generation conflict: the risk and the vision taken by the younger ones were seen by the older ones as an offense.


" We have worked this way for over 70 years, who are you now to tell us how to make wine"


That was one of the most common comment the Barolo boys would get. Elio Altare got to the point to destroy with a chainsaw the old family's barrels: his father legally disinherited him and he died two years later with the idea that his son was crazy.

Barrels play an essential role in this story: the second big revolutionary change was introducing the so-called barriques, smaller barrels (225 liters) of toasted French oak that gives a complete different taste to the wine, not only due to the toasted, oaky-vanilla flavor but because being a smaller container, more wine gets in contact with the wooden surface of the barrel.

French barriques and larger barrels next to eachother

The Barolo Boys flew to NYC in the early 1990s after the last member of the group joined the team: a young Italian-American wine importer who has organized a tour in the US turning this Piedmontese wine makers into celebrities. The newly barriques-aged Barolo wine, turned to be the favorite by critics and international customers, who had a hard time appreciating the other kind of Barolo, the traditional one, aged exclusively in the old-fashion big barrels. I personally do notice that, mostly with American guests who maybe are not wine experts but simple customers who enjoy a bottle once in a while: if they are used to drink Californian wines (where barriques are largely used), they will not like at first the traditional Barolo. They will eventually enjoy it later at the second or third tasting.

Any winner?

Today, about 30 years since the Barolo Boys got together, hostilities seems to have ceased, and it’s hard to say who won. I say everybody did. Actually the first big winner is Piemonte: tourism, especially in Alba and Barolo is booming, the price of land has skyrocketed, old farmhouses have been restored and the area is as beautiful as never before. There is a new, cosmopolitan energy and Barolo is now a big name next to Burgundy and few others.

In terms of wine making, we can say that most producers nowadays have mixed the two kinds of barrels, starting often aging in the big ones and ending the wine for a short period in the barriques. Few wineries still follow strictly either the traditional or the modern technique but everyone got benefits from the experience of the Barolo Boys. Quality is at its top all around Piemonte including in the Monferrato hill district where Barbera is now aged in similar ways.

The main lesson learned is that wine is absolutely a personal affair. Sure there are wines better than others but then our own taste changes with time, with our age, with new trends that, just like in fashion, evolve. The identity of a wine is an interpretation. Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, says it all:


"...some wines that were top rated in the 1990s and that I loved, now I would probably not like them at all. It's the human factor"


Barolo Boys - the movie

I invite you to watch the full documentary "Barolo Boys - the story of a revolution" because it is really well-done. It is available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Reelhouse and in Italy on Netflix too. It last just over 60 minutes and it won awards in several international competitions like Vancouver Italian Film Festival and Wine Country Film Festival of California.

Click here to access the movie's website


Written by Marco Scaglione.

Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo.  +39 344 111 4522.


FaLang translation system by Faboba