Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 32

In the spirit of all those standardized tests that have been
cancelled due to COVID-19, let's start with a quiz:
What is Barolo?
A. A wine made from nebbiolo grapes
in the Langhe hills of Piedmont
B. A wine region
C. A village
D. A commune (comune in Italian)
E. All of the above

T

he answer, of course, is E, that most
annoying choice. Barolo is a wine that
comes from nebbiolo grapes grown
within the limits of the Barolo DOCG
zone. Within that Barolo zone is the
town of Barolo, one of 11 villages that
are authorized to produce Barolo. Each
village sits within an extended area
called a comune, or municipality, that carries the same
name as the main village, and often the words village and
comune are used interchangeably.
Confusing? To most casual wine lovers, absolutely, even
to those who share an impression of Barolo as a powerful, tannic and often expensive wine. For many years, that
was all you really needed to know about Barolo, though
having the names of some top producers in your back
pocket helped.
That uniform fa├žade began to crack in the 1961 vintage
when Beppe Colla of Prunotto bottled a Barolo Bussia,
and Alfredo Currado of Vietti made a Barolo Rocche di
Castiglione-each appending the name of a famous single
site. Although considered radical, and actually prohibited
by Italian wine law at the time, this kicked off a profusion
of Barolos carrying single-site names, as well as Barolos
with invented or "fantasy" names with no relation at all
to any site. According to Giovanni Minetti, president of
the Barolo and Barbaresco Consorzio from 2001 to 2007
and vice president until 2010, "Anything was going on the
labels. It was completely out of control."

to each of the Barolo zone's 11 communes (Barolo,
Castiglione Falletto, Cherasco, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane
Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, Novello, Roddi,
Serralunga d'Alba and Verduno). The comune MGAs
allowed a producer making Barolo with 85 percent of
the grapes coming from a single commune to label that
wine with the commune name-for example, Barolo del
Comune di Serralunga d'Alba. The possibility of including
a commune name on Barolo labels actually existed prior
to 2010 but was only used by a few producers. The MGA
rules codified the comune category and standardized the
language so that all such wines would be called Barolo del
Comune di (insert comune name here).
To put it another way, comune wines are an intermediate category between "regular" Barolo (Barolo classico or Barolo normale; there is no official term for this)
and single-MGA Barolo from those 170 sites. Returning
to the Burgundy analogy, Barolo comune wines can be
compared to villages wines in Burgundy. Burgundy aficionados may be able to elucidate the differences among
the dozens of grand-cru and the hundreds of premiercru wines; a larger circle of Burgundy fans might know
that they prefer elegant, red-fruited Chambolle-Musigny
villages wines over darker, more structured villages Burgundy from Gevrey-Chambertin.
In a similar way, Barolo's 11 communes have different
personalities that derive from their predominant soil
types, altitudes and positions. Back in the days before
MGAs, Barolo was almost always a blend of nebbiolo

The 11 Communes of Barolo

Alarmed by the confusion and lack of regulation, Minetti
and other local officials began scrutinizing Italy's wine
laws for a way around the single-site prohibition; they also
worked with producers to map out and delimit Barolo's
most important historical sites. Those efforts dragged on
for some 20 years, culminating in 2010 with an official
map of Barolo that included 170 single vineyard sites,
known collectively as Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive
(additional geographic mentions), or MGAs-roughly
the equivalent of a cru or climat in Burgundy, and ranging in size from 3.6 to 938 acres.
While this brought some clarity and order, it also
required Barolo consumers to make a giant leap from the
macro to the micro. Now, instead of knowing the name
Barolo and those of a few producers, consumers are confronted with Barolo labels that can also include the name
of one of the 170 MGA vineyards.
Fortunately, in addition to the 170 single-site MGAs, the
regulations also defined 11 "super-MGAs" corresponding
32

WINE & SPIRITS

DECEMBER 2020

MAP ILLUSTRATION BY JOEL KIMMEL

THE MGAS



Wine & Spirits - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - December 2020

Contents
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 1
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 2
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 4
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 5
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 6
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 7
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 8
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Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover3
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