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Food Pairings -- Barolo

My tasting group met last night and the theme was Barolo. It was a non-blind session in which everyone brought a different wine.

We tasted each bottle, spoke about the producer, the cru in which the grapes were harvested, the winemaking practices, the vintage, and possible food pairings.

The food pairings part, to my surprise, was probably the most difficult for me. I was blown away by some of the dishes people were throwing out there. My first and only instinct for the nebbiolo grape is a big fat Tomahawk. And even though I don't think that is a bad pairing (maybe not the best choice for some of the more delicate styles), I just felt unprepared in that category. 

So what I hope to happen here is for people to chime in and give me their favorite food pairings for Barolo.

If you could name a specific wine (producer, vintage, denomination, etc..), the dish you'd pair it with and why, it would be greatly appreciated.



  • One of the first Barolos I tasted was a 2011 Gaja Barolo Dagromis and I remember some of the suggested pairings being sweet potato pasta and similar rich/creamy/borderline sweet dishes. They definitely didn't fit my instincts at the time, but it's refreshing to consider something other than big tannin=big steak. Barolo is also underrated with dessert imo!

  • Being able to play around with wines of different structural balance and fruit/non-fruit aspects and how those change with crus/producers/vintages is so much fun with Barolo. In a lot of applications if you'd think a dish would work well with Pinot Noir, it's likely Nebbiolo will work pretty well too. Some of the non-Langhe expressions can be just different enough to really open some eyes. 

    If we are talking later in the meal main proteins I think pork and duck with Nebbiolo wines. Most preparations of pork or duck involve either crispy skin or some kind of succulent texture usually from braising. Both of these play to the structural elements of of the wines: lots of fat playing into the tannins and acid and, in the case of braised preparation, that succulent texture can fill in some of the hollowness more austere wines can show (especially vis-a-vis the fleshier middle-palate of Sangiovese). Osso Bucco or braised beef short ribs can kill with Barolo/Barbaresco in this regard.

    From there it's either do I want to match the fruit or the non-fruit. Spring can be amazing for this as you can play both ways with different dishes as you've got morels, rhubarb, and cherries to play with. Two dishes that come to mind recently are dry-aged duck breast with cipollini onions and rhubarb gastrique and brasied suckling pig over fresh egg pasta with morels in reduced mushroom stock.

    2010 Burlotto Monvigliero or 2006 Bartolo Mascarello are two wines in pretty different styles that would be great with either/both dishes. Monvig super red fruited and bright, Bartolo a bit deeper with more powerful structure. If pairing one for one I'd actually go Burlotto with that pasta and Bartolo with the duck, go for emphasizing more complexity all around rather than the more in your face route. 

    One thing I've noticed with older wines (early 80s and older) is that, with some exceptions for producers (G Conterno, Marcarini) and vintages ('78 most notably), the acid tends to outlive the tannins quite markedly on a lot of these wines. Might make me shy away from the gastrique on that duck dish in favor of a more simple jus or something. Simpler the better when wanting to really showcase those old wines. 

    I have very little experience with the style of Nebbiolo that has a lot of new oak influence and more extraction, so I won't speak to those wines.

    That was a bit more general than the exact question you asked, I hope that's alright. 

    Curious, what were some of the dishes that your group mentioned that really surprised you? And the wines they were mentioned in context with?

  • Gelato and berries.

    Seriously. My gf and I went to an Italian restaurant in Laguna Beach and brought a 2011 Barolo and had just enough left over for dessert and it was wonderful!

  • 11 ROAGNA Barolo PIRA VV, MUST double -decanter !! pairing with asian dishes , a nice soy-sauce sliced pork tender loin with bit asian spices on that . let you feel the magic when light soy-sauce pork with this , it's like re-marriage ,

    or traditionally , with lamb chop or rabbit meat something should be fine 

    Or  Elio Altare ; have to say, personally i believe Cerretta is the best vineyard in Serralunga, i get two bottle this time, one is Elio Altare Cerretta Vigna Bricco 2007 & 2011, need a great chef this moment ....

    something mentionable winery:

    1) Giuseppe Mascarello

    2)Giacomo Conterno

    3)Poderi Aldo Conterno

    4)Bruno Giacosa

    5)Bartolo Mascarello

    6) Ginseppe Rinaldi

    8)Renato Ratti

    9)Luciano Sandrone

    10) Marchesi di Barolo 

  • This is all really great stuff, Alex. Thank you for taking the time to respond!

    Some of the dishes that were mentioned in my group were pork and duck-based dishes with crazy elaborate preparations.

    They didn't surprise me in a way where I was in disagreement with them, but more so in a way where I was like, "wow, I never thought of that!"

    Here is a list of the wines we tasted that night. I don't have a record of what food each person suggested with each wine...

    Produttori Barbaresco Rabaja 2013

    Pecchenino Langhe Nebbiolo 2015

    Bartolo Mascarello Monprivato 2011

    Roccheviberti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 2011

    Paolo Scavino Bric del Fiasc 2000

    Paolo Scavino Cannubi 2004

    Francesco Rinaldi Cannubi 2013

    Francesco Rinaldi Brunate 2012

  • Agreed, sir!

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  • Very cool, Cory. I'll have to try that.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond!

  • Lamb chops and/or Rabbit meat... now we're talking!

    Thanks, LingChen!

  • Funny thing, I just brought a Barolo home the other night (Ascheri 2013) because I'd been sitting on some artisan porcini tagliatelle.  Made a white truffle cream sauce and served it with lamb and grilled broccoli rabe, pretty amazing!

  • I can't believe that no one has mentioned this yet, but wild mushroom risotto is just banging with Nebbiolo!  The creaminess of the risotto just strips the wine of any possible harshness and softens the tannins.  Yum!  Also, arancini, butternut squash ravioli, stinky Taleggio cheese and a juicy veal chop would be great pairings.  Also, white Alba Truffles on just about anything- perfection! 

  • If you look at some of the classic dishes in the area it will help you think of pairings that are very natural and historic. These would include:

    Castelmagno and/or Toma DOP Cheese; Razza Piemontese beef (carne cruda or cooked tagliata); vitello tonnato (although I think this is better with Arneis, but still, puts veal in the wheelhouse); all forms of truffles; egg-rich pasta; salsiccia de bra

    I'm sure there's more stuff but this is what comes to mind when I think specifically of the most common foods I've seen in Piedmont, specifically when touring around Barolo and Barbaresco. All of these work with Nebbiolo, the one outlier being the vitello tonnato with the fish flavor so it can be slightly worse with tannin, but you could still go for a softer Langhe Neb like Paolo Scavino's which just tastes like cherry juice (in a good way). 

  • Did you mean Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato?

  • any specific flavor on the gelato?