On the Trail

Traditional Barolo at Barale

John Downing

We traveled to Piemonte at the end of our recent trip to Italy for our final winery visits and concluded that journey at the Barale Winery in the town of Barolo. The arrival was an especially significant moment for me as I’ve known the Barale family for many years and couldn’t wait to reunite with them. As someone who has a great affection for the Langhe and its people, I was thrilled when my colleague Greg St. Clair initially informed me that we were going to be working with Barale. We had already begun importing their wines directly to K&L and considering the tremendous positive response from both customers and K&L staff alike, we had only good news for Sergio Barale and his daughter Eleonora.

Their winery is located near the entrance to the old town of Barolo and most of their vineyard holdings lie within the Barolo zone, which includes a portion of the storied Cannubi vineyard. They are also fortunate to own prime vineyard plots in nearby Monforte, from which they produce Barolo and an unexpectedly-great Chardonnay, as well as Barbaresco. Not only are they among the oldest family-owned Barolo houses, but the price/quality ratio of their wines is nearly unparalleled for this region as well. Founded in 1870, the estate can trace its heritage all the way back to the origins of Barolo wine in Piedmont; back when it was first touted by the Marchesi Falletti and the Count of Cavour. Today, the wines of Barale are still some of the most traditional and charming the region has to offer.

Once we'd said our hellos and finished with formal greetings, we headed into the winery to taste some of the upcoming vintages from barrel. Eleonora was there to walk us through each expression and explain the intricacies of the vintage. The 2016 harvest in Piedmonte is already getting a good amount of hype from those in the know, specifically the reds. We were excited to get a preview of that potential greatness. We then spent the remainder of our time opening the current releases that have just now arrived at K&L. We’d normally expect a weak link or two considering the number of wines offered, but none existed! Normally I'd single out a few sure-fire winners for the sake of the blog post, but in the case of Barale everything they make is outstanding, from the entry level barbera to the reasonably-priced Barolo Riserva. Each has a purity of fruit that is unmatched (click here to see our full selection). Not only were all the wines fantastic, we were able to get sufficient quantities of each expression. In fact, they were kind enough to grant each of our allocation wishes with the exception of their amazing dolcetto. It’s no fault of theirs that so little remained of the 2015, as Eleonora was nearly sold out just from local demand, but we should get the 2016 when it's ready. 

Our visit ended with a very memorable meal at Massimo Camino, a Michelin-starred restaurant owned and operated by the famous chef of the same name. Greg, Mike (Guido), and I joined Sergio and Eleonora for a very welcome repast as our trip came to an end. I can't say enough good things about these wines, all of which come with our highest recommendation. I could of course continue to list their accolades, but we think the quality of the wines will speak for itself. While our direct import program has long focused on the reds of Montalcino, it's about time we brought that same buying power to the dolcettos, barberas, and nebbiolo-based wines of Piedmonte.

-John Downing