Ultimate Barolo Food Pairing Guide [20 Unmissable Pairings]
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.
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.
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
Barolo Vegetarian Dish Pairings