Written by: Tim Edison

Updated on: January 9, 2023

Ultimate Barolo Food Pairing Guide [20 Unmissable Pairings]

Barolo food pariring guide

Barolo, coming from the Nebbiolo grape, is intense, rich, complex, and so tannic that the term “tarry” can be used as a compliment to describe its texture and flavor.

Along with its companion, Barbaresco, Barolo is known for being structured, bold, and definitely not a suitable wine for modest poolside conversation.

That said, if there was ever a wine fit for your most hearty and flavorful dishes, it’s Barolo. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about making the perfect Barolo food pairing.

We cover tasting notes, regional differences, pairing tips, and finish with some food pairing recommendations to try.

What Does Barolo Taste Like?

Before discussing which foods to pair with Barolo, it’s helpful to go over what Barolo tastes like and how its aging process affects its flavor.

Barolo is full-bodied, with high acidity, high tannins, and medium to high alcohol. Barolo is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes, primarily in Piedmont, Italy. 

Barolo is often referenced alongside Barberesco - also made from the Nebbiolo grape - though Barolo can be expected to be slightly more textured and masculine in comparison. 

Until the late 90s, it was typical to age Barolo for a minimum of 10 years, as the high tannins would take years to soften before being drinkable. Today with modern winemaking, a good bottle of Barolo can be considered drinkable after around five years. 

Due to its rich tannins and late ripening, few regions can succeed with this varietal. In Piedmont, Barolo can be made in 11 villages, each with its own microclimate, making for slightly varied wines.

That said, you can expect Barolo to have flavors of chocolate, roses, licorice, prunes, and black figs.


Piedmont Barolo

Without a doubt, Barolo’s home is in Northern Italy’s Piedmont region. That said, only 8% of plantings in Piedmont are dedicated to the Nebbiolo grape.

In this region, the Nebbiolo grape can be used to make Barolo, Barbaresco, and numerous other lesser-known wines. 

Barolo from Piedmont must be made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes and aged for a minimum of 38 months, 18 of which must be in oak.

Its intense structure and unsparing tannins make it undrinkable unless it is aged for a substantial amount of time. Ideally, a young bottle of Barolo should be laid down for at least five years. 

When enjoyed younger, Barolo is punchy with bright flavors of cherry and raspberry. As it ages, Barolo develops a bold, tarry texture with flavors of dried fruit, chocolate, and roses.


Mexican Barolo

While Piedmont is home to the best examples of Nebbiolo, the Valley de Guadelupe of Mexico makes surprising examples of this varietal. 

Based in the Baja California region, its dry Mediterranean climate offers both warm days and cooling nights, making for concentrated wines with developed flavor. 

Due to Mexico’s lack of strict winemaking laws, it isn’t atypical to see blends containing everything from Nebbiolo to Cabernet Sauvignon to Tempranillo

Here, Barolo - or Nebbiolo - can be expected to have flavors of cherries, roses, and leather. 


How to Pair Barolo

Barolo is complex, to say the least. Therefore, it is best to select certain dishes that are capable of standing up to this wine's deep flavor.

When paired successfully, Barolo shines and elevates the dish it’s paired with to new heights.


Factors to Consider When Pairing Foods with Barolo

Barolo, along with Barbaresco, is incredibly tannic and high in acid. These characteristics make Barolo most suitable for pairing with richly flavored, savory, and fatty dishes. 

Barolo’s rich structure and voluptuous flavor make it an ideal wine for upscale dishes. If there was ever a wine to stand up to whole pig roasts, roasted duck, or a plate of truffles, it’s Barolo.

It is best to avoid lightly seasoned dishes and seafood, as Barolo will overpower these. In addition, spicy foods will accentuate the alcohol in the wine and make it taste more alcoholic and bitter by comparison.


The Best Barolo Food Pairings

Now that we’ve gone over what not to do, it’s time for some good news! Barolo is a fantastic food wine that is best reserved for your most prized dishes. 

Here are some recommendations on how to best pair Barolo.


Barolo Meat Dish Pairings

Carbonara pasta

Carbonara pasta

  • Carbonara - Originating in Rome, this dish consists of pasta, egg, cured pork, and black pepper. Its rich yet subtle flavor makes it perfect for Barolo.
  • Venison stew - Gamey and deeply flavorful, a hearty venison stew can overpower many wines, but Barolo will accentuate the dish and soften its gaminess. 
  • Braised pork shank - Savory and rich with herbs, Barolo is the perfect pairing to add flavor, plus its high acidity can help tenderize the muscly meat. 
  • Wild boar ragu - Few wines can stand up next to a flavorful and complicated protein such as wild boar, but Barolo is ideal for the job. 
  • Ossobucco - This Lombard dish of veal shanks braised with white wine, broth, and vegetables is tender, mild, and yet layered with complex flavor. When paired with Barolo, the two complement each other perfectly.


Barolo Vegetarian Dish Pairings

Italian risotto with truffle

Italian risotto with truffle

  • Truffle risotto - Barolo and truffles are an ideal pairing, as the umami flavor of the truffles accentuates the fruitiness of Barolo, making it taste sweeter. 
  • Mushroom pizza - Mushrooms are another perfect pairing with Barolo, as the savory flavor of the mushrooms pairs well with the earthy flavor of the wine. 
  • Truffle mac ‘n cheese - Mac ‘n cheese is a rich dish that’s made even more satisfying with a few shaved truffles. When paired with Barolo, the wine will taste far fruitier and less bitter.
  • Fried mushrooms - Barolo’s high acidity makes it a perfect wine to cut through the fatty flavors of fried foods. 
  • Roasted vegetables - When roasted, vegetables take on a caramelized and savory flavor that is best suited for full-bodied red wines. Barolo works even with tricky vegetables such as radicchio, fennel, or sunchokes.

 

Barolo Appetizer Pairings

Antipasto platter

Antipasto platter

  • Tuscan white bean dip - While delicate in flavor, the complimentary herbs in the white bean dip will accentuate the earthy flavor of Barolo. 
  • Antipasto platter - The combination of cured meats, olives, cheese, and peppers commonly found on an antipasto platter are all the perfect foods to pair with Barolo. 
  • Pesto crostini - With fresh basil flavor, savory parmesan cheese, and aromatic olive oil, these flavors mesh perfectly with Barolo and bring out its fruity flavor. 
  • Bacon-wrapped dates - The combination of sweet dates wrapped in crispy, salty bacon is best matched for an equally rich and flavorful wine like Barolo. 
  • Smoked chicken wings - Smoky, tender wings need a complimentary wine with dark fruit flavors. Pairing with Barolo will make the wine taste fruity and bright in comparison. 


Barolo and Cheese Pairings

Feta cheese

Feta cheese

  • Feta - Salty cheeses are a red wine's best friend, and feta is one of the saltiest. When paired with Barolo, the wine will taste far sweeter and more fruit-forward. 
  • Burrata - Though delicate in flavor, burrata is creamy and subtle, and when paired with acid-rich tomato, this pairing will make the wine taste less bitter and sweeter. 
  • Parmigiano Reggiano - Savory, slightly nutty, and a bit sweet, this cheese is similar to mild cheddar and is ideal for pairing with bold red wines such as Barolo.
  • Castelmagno - Native to Piedmont, this pressed firm cheese has a pleasant earthy and tangy flavor reminiscent of mushrooms. Barolo is one of the few wines so perfectly matched. 
  • Gorgonzola - More commonly found than Castelmagno, Gorgonzola is native to the Lombardy region right next to Piedmont. Its savory and pungent flavor is perfect for pairing with Barolo. 


Barolo and Snack Pairings

Olives

Olives

  • Cheez-its - This salty snack can leave you thirst-quenching before you’re done. Luckily, a tall glass of Barolo will seem refreshing and fruity when paired together. 
  • Olives - Salty and briny, a snack of olives is best paired with a complex red wine such as Barolo.
  • Pâté and crackers - Such a fatty and rich snack of pâté requires a high acid and aromatic wine to avoid seeming heavy. Barolo will elevate the snack and end up tasting sweeter and more delicious than before. 
  • Dried fruit - Since Barolo typically has flavors of dried figs and prunes due to its length of aging, pairing this wine with complimentary fruits is perfect for accentuating those similar flavors. 
  • Salami sandwiches - Once you pair this nostalgic treat with a tall glass of Barolo, you’ll have a hard time imagining one without the other. 


About the Author Tim Edison


Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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