ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the difference between a Nebbiolo and a Barolo and Barbaresco? I know the two “B’s” are made from the Nebbiolo grape, but what characterizes a Nebbiolo wine?

—Kathryn, Los Angeles

Dear Kathryn,

You’re correct that Nebbiolo is both the name of a grape and of a wine made from that grape. Though small amounts of Nebbiolo are grown all over the world, it’s mostly found in northern Italy, in the Piedmont region. Within Piedmont are two wine-producing zones called Barolo and Barbaresco, whose namesake wines are both made from the Nebbiolo grape. A wine may be labeled as a Nebbiolo if it's made in a region outside Barolo and Barbaresco that permits varietal labeling.

What characterizes Nebbiolo and the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco? I find the wines very distinctive, with aromatic tar, rose, licorice and truffle notes. The wines can be a highly tannic and have a reputation for aging well. In general terms, Barolo is the more massive, tannic and rich of the two, while Barbaresco is considered more elegant and approachable.

—Dr. Vinny


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