Two Kings of Italian Wine: Barolo & Brunello di Montalcino

An overview of the best of the Italian wines. 🍷

The Two Kings of Italian Wine

I recently hosted a blind tasting and we tasted the “Two Kings of Italian Wines” – as Barolo and Brunello Montalcino are typically referred to. Below is a little bit about each.


100% Nebbiolo / From the Barolo DOCG, Piedmont

Barolo is a high-tannin, age-worthy red wine that’s made in Piedmont, in Northwest Italy. Barolo is lively and succulent with a deep, yet delicate floral taste. The notes you’ll find in a Barolo include raspberry, licorice, rose petal, white pepper and spices – and with age comes licorice, leather, and chocolate. This wine is pale and floral, but packs a punch with astringent tannins and high acidity.

  • Aging before bottle: 3 years and 5 years for Riserva
  • Drink by: 10–25 years (typically best after 10 years)


100% Sangiovese / From the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany

Brunello di Montalcino is a moderate tannin, age-worthy red wine made in Tuscany, in Central Italy. Rich and opulent with Burgundian fruit-forward flavor, the typical notes in a Brunello are often strawberry, oregano, sour cherry, fig, aged balsamic, espresso and leather. This wine is darker in color with a red hue on the rim. It is at first juicy and spicy, with herbaceous notes of oregano and balsamic that lead into flavors of cherry and leather. The tannin is high, but not quite as high as Barolo. 

  • Aging before bottle: 5 years and 6 years for Riserva
  • Drink by: 10–25 years (typically best after 10 years)

Our Tasting Lineup

Brunello flight

  • 2009 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Annata Tenuta Greppo 
  • 2010 La Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino Fornace 
  • 2013 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Madonna del Piano Riserva 

Barolo flight

  • 2004 Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana
  • 2008 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello
  • 2010 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis

The tasting group’s favorites were the 2010 Luciano Sandrone Barolo and the 2013 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.

While most of the list above features older wines, the producers are good ones to look out for when purchasing newer vintages. For both wines, 2015 and 2016 were strong vintages. If you haven’t tried Barolo or Brunello before, they would be fun ones to try next time you see them on a menu.


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