Barolo Wine: Italy Tackles the Traditional vs Modern Production Debate

All over the world, in every winemaking area with at least 30 years of history, there is a squabble going on between traditional producers and modernists. As modern science has begun to understand some of the chemical reactions taking place in the creation of wine, some of the mystery has been removed. Universities all over the world (led in large part by the University of California at Davis) have become leaders in what many have termed the international style of wine.

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Proponents of these techniques have found that certain procedures, in the vineyards and in the winery can lead to more consistent wines that impress both the critics and the buying populace as well. There can be no doubt that this movement has created more quality wines from more producers than ever before. One of these techniques is to allow the grapes to hang on the vines for a much longer period of time. This produces riper grapes, which in turn produces wine with bolder fruit and more alcohol, which makes a more full-bodied wine.

Others would argue that the growing internationalization movements have lost something along the way. Like the effect on indigenous foods cultures by the proliferation of McDonalds® or KFC® restaurants around the world, these wine purists wonder whether a glass of purple opaque fruit filled wine, that could be from anywhere in the world, means there an inherent loss of diversity that diminishes our wine drinking choices and culture.

I will leave that argument for another day. The fact is perhaps, nowhere is that clash of methodologies more acute than in the tiny northwest corner of Italy. In Barolo, in the heart of Piemonte, the same argument that has been playing out around the world is also a heated topic of debate. But in Barolo, we as consumers can and do get the best of both worlds. There is no reason for us to choose sides. We can buy both.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.