What's the difference between Nebbiolo, Barolo and Barbaresco?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

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 the name of the grape that Barolos and Barbarescos are made from. 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

Italy Piedmont Red Wines Nebbiolo Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Why are grapes harvested in bins instead of in a big truck bed?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why large plastic bins are ubiquitous in wine …

Dec 5, 2022

What is “reverse osmosis” in relation to wine? How and why is it used?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the science (and the motivation) behind the …

Nov 28, 2022

I need advice on Thanksgiving wines. Which wines pair best with turkey and sides?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice on selecting wines for the Thanksgiving …

Nov 21, 2022

What is a “second wine”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the "second wine" concept and what it means in …

Nov 14, 2022

Is it bad if an old bottle of wine has sediment in it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that sediment happens—and how to deal with it.

Nov 7, 2022

Is it OK to change my mind about a wine after I've approved a sommelier to serve it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that there's a reason that sommeliers show …

Oct 31, 2022