Barolo food pairing

Published June 10th, 2022

Barolo is one of the most prestigious red wines in Italy, highly appreciated abroad. It is obtained from Nebbiolo grapes, produced exclusively within a specific production area in the region of Piedmont.

It is known as the King of wines, for its great quality, but also as a wine of the Kings, having crossed its history with that of the House of Savoy. It is a full-bodied, robust wine, which requires long aging to smoothen and some good food on the side.

Barolo pairing basics

Due to its strong and structured taste, it is usually combined with red meats and game, but Barolo lends itself to many combinations related to traditional Piedmontese cuisine and international recipes.

So, let’s look at some basic rules for Barolo food pairing.

The first thing to consider is the peculiar character of the Nebbiolo grape. Its high acidity, firm tannic backbone, alcoholic warmth, and rich aromatic bouquet are essential factors when choosing a dish to pair.

Indeed, on the palate, Barolo wine is very dry and powerful, with a rich tannic texture that creates a perfect synergy with the marked acidity and it’s well balanced by robust alcohol content.

It is a wine with a richly aromatic bouquet and a long finish. Its bouquet displays notes of wild berries (currants, raspberries, cherries, strawberries), spices, leather, nutmeg, and licorice as well as all the typical aromas of the Langhe in autumn (toasted hazelnuts, earth, and truffles). With aging, Nebbiolo develops smoky scents of spices and wood, incense, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

For all these reasons it is easy to understand that Barolo red wine generally goes well with fatty meats and rich sauces, especially if with an acid component such as tomato, which resists the acidity and richness of the wine.

The age of the wine also plays a role in the pairing. The exuberant and fiery tannins of a young Barolo require dishes with a fat character, while with more mature wines, in which the tannins are silkier and the aromas less exuberant, care must be taken not to use opulent sauces to avoid them overpowering the wine.

But there is a great rule when it comes to Barolo food pairings: avoid dishes that are too spicy, salty, or bitter. The high alcohol does not go well with an excessive spiciness, and the tannins may clash with bitter notes or strong sapidity.

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More traditional barolo food pairings

Meat is often the first choice for any Nebbiolo food pairing. And there is plenty of choices: veal has always been a traditional pair in the Langhe, but beef and duck also pair well, and then game, especially wild boar. The type of cooking and the sauces are also important: Barolo is the ideal wine for succulent dishes, so it goes well with stews and roast meats served with sauces.

But it’s not all about meat, vegetarians can also enjoy a delicious glass of Italian Barolo with their meals. Nebbiolo makes an excellent match with truffles and mushrooms, and it’s perfect with tomato sauces and strongly flavored cheeses.

Brasato al Barolo (beef stew)

Brasato al Barolo is a rich and succulent beef stew, traditionally made in Piemonte using the local wine Barolo.

The peculiarity of this dish is the tenderness of the meat, cooked for a long time in a marinade made of excellent wine, spices, herbs, and vegetables such as celery, carrots, and onions. The result is a dish full of flavors, to be accompanied by a bottle of young Barolo, that has the right structure to balance such a tasty dish, and it’s capable of enhancing the spiciness of the recipe.

Our suggestion: Barolo DOCG 2017  Fontanafredda

Wild boar ragù

Wild boar ragu, known in Italy as 'ragù al cinghiale' is a typical Tuscan preparation used as a dressing for various types of pasta, including Pappardelle (a large type of fresh egg pasta).

The smokey and earthy flavors typical of a Barolo will certainly go hand in hand with the sweetness and intensity of flavors of wild boar, while the dark fruit will complement the tomato sauce. But since wild boar meat is quite lean, it won't go well with the exuberant tannins of a young Barolo. So, in this case, best to choose an aged one.

Our suggestion: Bruna Grimaldi Camilla Barolo 2017

Roasted duck

Roasted duck is a delicious main course with intense and persistent flavors. The skin is caramelized during roasting, releasing sweet fats that make the meat tender and mild on the inside.

The solid acidity of Barolo manages to cut the richness of the meat while the marked floral, fruity, and spicy sensations, and the fresh structure, make this wine an excellent companion to this succulent recipe.

Our suggestion: Ciabot Berton Barolo 2016

Pair barolo with vegetarian dishes

Risotto with porcini mushrooms

Risotto with porcini mushrooms is a classic Italian preparation, especially in Northern Italy because this is where porcini most often grow. 

Despite being a dish not too rich and that doesn’t have such big structure and texture, the mushrooms add a notable aromatic profile. This is why Barolo is such a delicious match for this risotto: its earthy notes go hand in hand with mushrooms and its lively acidity certainly will cut through the butter and Parmesan cheese that complete the recipe.

Our suggestion: Barolo DOCG "Paesi Tuoi" 2017 - Vite Colte

Tajarin with truffles

Tajarin is a fresh egg pasta similar to tagliatelle and typical Piedmontese. The peculiarity of this pasta is that it has a peculiar yellow color, as the recipe uses many egg yolks (on average from 10 to 18 per kg of flour).

An elegant way to serve them is with grated Parmesan and truffle, and this is is one of the most classic Nebbiolo food pairings. The earthy notes of Barolo are an exceptional partner with truffles, while the acidity of the wine will rebalance the fat of the Parmesan and the sweet notes of the pasta.

Our suggestion: Barolo DOCG 2017 - Clavesana

Gnocchi and gorgonzola

Barolo is also a great wine for strong cheeses like Gorgonzola or aged ones like Parmesan or the Piedmontese Castelmagno.

The delicate fatness of Castelmagno is brilliantly matched by the full structure of the Barolo, while the gentle bitterness of a Gorgonzola is harmonized by the softness and alcoholicity of the Barolo.

Nonetheless, as the exuberant and astringent tannins of a young Nebbiolo may clash with the cheese roundness, if you are preparing simple and delicious gnocchi with Gorgonzola, try a wine that is a bit more evolved.

Our suggestion:  Barolo DOCG "Barolo della Tradizione" 2017 - Marchesi di Barolo

Creative barolo food pairings

Although Barolo is usually paired with rich dishes with strong flavors or with local recipes, this is a wine that can also allow unusual combinations that also include ethnic foods and some vegan recipes. Just keep in mind the characteristics of the wine and the dish.

The key, in this case, is always to add some fatness or texture to your recipe, so that the dish isn't overwhelmed by the strong personality of the wine.

Barolo with salad

If you think that a Barolo food pairing with salad is impossible, well you may be wrong. Of course, don't expect to drink Barolo with the type of salad you'd eat to lose weight or a simple green salad.

But one of those rich salads with crispy bacon, or roasted chicken or duck, eggs, parmesan shards, cheese, and nuts may be a good and unusual match for a Nebbiolo-based wine.

A classic French Gesiers salad, for example, made with preserved duck giblets, potatoes and walnuts will be a perfect choice.

Our suggestion: Barolo Paolo Scavino 2018

Barolo with Asian and Indian food

Elegant and challenging in equal measure, Barolo is a complex and structured wine that may seem difficult to pair with Asian-inspired dishes but it can instead produce imaginative and exciting pairings.

Generally, Barolo's acidity and fruitiness can pair well with moderately spicy food, although its high alcohol content can clash with very spicy food.

Asian food which is rich in tannins can find a good balance in the firm Barolo tannins, while the red fruit aromas typical of the Nebbiolo grape can create a harmonious combination with the Asian flavors. On the other hand, the richness of Indian curries can be cleansed and enhanced by the tannic texture of a good glass of Barolo.

There are plenty of choices: satay Thai, yakitori, falafel, beef tacos, empanadas, choripan, and tandoori chicken.

Our suggestion: Azelia Barolo 2017

Barolo with chocolate

With its dry character and vibrant acidity, Barolo is not the best wine for desserts.

But there is an exception. Indeed, the power and sustained alcohol content of Barolo are an excellent solution to accompany the aromatic intensity of dark chocolate,while the wine’s dryness can cleanse the palate from the melting of cocoa on the palate.

Besides, this is something that can work both if you are serving meat with a chocolate sauce or just a dark chocolate selection as a dessert.

It is an unusual match and yet an absolute must-try!

Our suggestion: Barolo Riserva DOCG 2013 - Marchesi di Barolo