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

What’s the difference between Brix, Baumé, Oechsle and residual sugar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why measuring sugar content in grapes is so …

Jan 18, 2021

Will my wines get too cold in the garage?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny covers the pitfalls of storing wine in the garage, …

Jan 11, 2021

Dr. Vinny's 25 Top Answers to 'What's the Difference Between …?'

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers disambiguations for wine topics far and wide.

Jan 4, 2021

Dr. Vinny's Most Interesting Questions of 2020

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits the most thoughtful questions …

Dec 31, 2020

Dr. Vinny Answers Your Pandemic Questions (About Wine)

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits all your questions about wine …

Dec 28, 2020

Why is the name “Sauvignon” attached to both red Cabernet Sauvignon and white Sauvignon Blanc?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the relationship between Cabernet Sauvignon and …

Dec 21, 2020