Barolo Wine Pairing: Lessons From Piedmont

Barolo wine pairing lessons – and, don’t forget to apply test your learnings! 

To get things going, I created a quick and easy food and wine pairing reference guide to quickly and easily manage your Barolo wine pairing adventures.

As I was writing this piece, I started thinking about the different pairings that have been suggested to me by my winemaker friends. So many unique and surprising pairings. One of my favorite philosophies on wine and food pairing comes from Winemaker Veronica Santero of Palladino, a Barolo winery in Serralunga. She is quick to caution wine lovers against too much generalize for their Barolo wine pairing:

Combine the wine with what you like! Today we have people who can’t eat meat, are vegetarians – does that mean you can’t enjoy a Nebbiolo wine because traditional pairings are game or roast meats? No! Just make sure you use good ingredients and food you love. And, remember that Barolo is also meditation wine. Drink it alone, relax in front of a fire in the winter.  

Veronica Santero, Palladino, Serralunga, Barolo

In addition to Veronica, I asked a handful of local producers for their favorite unexpected Barbaresco and Barolo wine pairings, which are highlighted below.

But, to start things off, let’s talk about the very general basics. But, don’t make this your bible. It’s just a cheat sheet to help you navigate your food and wine pairing adventures as I know it’s something that many people find quite nerve-racking. So, use this as a starting point, but get creative with your Barolo wine pairings, as you’ll see I note below, leveraging these principles.

If you’ve been here during my Cooking with Denise adventures with Denise Pardini of Castello di Sinio, you may recall her lesson in how to pair Barolo with salad – yes, Barolo and salad! Much like Veronica explained, it’s all about your ingredients.

Food and Wine Pairing: The Basic Principles

There are two main ways to look at food and wine pairings – the compare / contrast method and the enhancement approach. With the former, you are looking at how opposites attract. With the later, take advantage of like flavors, textures, etc. to bring those to the forefront.

From there, you’ve got the rules of flavor, how do you best manage different elements: acidity, sweetness, heat (higher alcohol), spice (heat in the food).

food and wine pairing basics

What does all this mean for a Barolo wine pairing? Let’s break it down.

Nebbiolo is a highly tannic wine – hello, sawdust mouth after trying young Barolo wine. But, luckily the high acidity in nebbiolo creates a harmonious balance on the palate. Other components to the Barolo wine pairing equation: the wine’s crazy sexy aromatics and way long finish. 

Barolo wine pairing considerations:

With Barolo wine pairing, think through bottle age. Younger wines have more powerful tannins and riper fruits, raspberries, plums, red and black cherries. As the wine ages and the tannins calm, you find haunting tertiary flavors like tar, dried rose petals, truffle, rich red, and black fruits.   

Try a salad with the right components – think steak, strong cheeses, even the right fruits add to the complexity. See my notes below for more on salad and Barolo wine pairing.

In general, Barolo is a higher alcohol wine with 13 percent required minimum alcohol to meet DOCG aging requirements. Also, keep in mind that higher alcohol does not fare well with spicy dishes, so try to keep the heat moderate to low. That said, fatty meats and rich sauces work well for a Barolo wine pairing. Veal is quite traditional in the Langhe, but rich meat like a duck is also brilliant. Personally, I’m a sucker for all things duck.

barolo wine

Barolo and Asian Food

Consider foods with high tannins as they complement Barolo’s high tannin structure – moderately spiced Asian foods may surprise you as a pairing. Asian dishes are high in tannin, so that works well to enhance the wine. In addition, the red fruit and tantalizing aromatics match beautifully with Asian dishes.

Barolo and Chocolate

A lot of people swear by Barolo wine pairing of chocolate for dessert, which is in agreement with the wine pairing rule of sweet dishes and higher alcohol wine. Personally, I’m a savory gal, so for me, it’s going to be Barolo cheese pairing every day if I’ve got wine left in my glass. That said, I’m not one to give you advice on this Barolo pairing, but I know many who swear by it. It’s actually a favorite of Veronica of Palladino.

She explains that for her it is the contrast of the pairing – sweet and dryness of the nebbiolo. “After I’ve had a nice meal with rich meats and Barolo, I like to save some in my glass for some dark chocolate. People may think I’m crazy, but I love the sensation in the mouth of sweet and dry.”

Barolo wine pairing ideas:

  • Traditional dishes include: 
    • Brasato al Barolo (braised veal, lamb, or wild boar).
    • Truffle dishes like traditional tajarin pasta with rich mountain butter, fonduta of strong cheeses, even fried egg with a runny yolk – shaved liberally with decadent Alba White Truffle
    • Barolo cheese pairing ideas include strong cheeses like Castelmagno DOP or Gorgonzola.
  • Get creative and try dishes with rich, fatty components: My Cooking with Denise adventures introduced to me how to do a Barbaresco and Barolo wine pairing with salad.
    • Go for a composed salad with steak, rich cheese, egg, and nuts. 
    • Denise also encourages the use of high pectin fruits, like gooseberries and plums, to add complexity and balance. Incorporate into your salad or add to roasted chicken, duck, or game. 

One of my favorite salads to pair with a special Barolo has gorgonzola and pears – meat isn’t even necessary! You have the richness and fat of the cheese and complexity of the high pectin pears to beautifully complement the Barolo.

Denise Pardini, Hotel Castello di Sinio 

Barolo wine pairing recipes: 

Read more on Piedmont Wine Pairing

Drop us a note – here or social media (Facebook and Instagram) with your thoughts and new Barolo pairing ideas!

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