Touring & Dining at Marchesi di Barolo (#ItalianFWT)

Marchesi di Barolo is the home of Barolo as we know it today. We had a chance to visit, taste, and enjoy the wines with the regional cuisine.

Note: This experience was comped as a member of the wine industry. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. 

We arrived at Marchesi di Barolo, right in the town of Barolo itself, on a foggy, rainy day just as harvest was wrapping up in 2018. We’d just driven up from the Ligurian coast and headed straight to the winery for our appointment, and between the drive and the rain, we were a little disheveled when we got there. What a wonderful experience it turned out to be, though! We had a chance to tour the historical winery, after which we sat down to an amazing lunch pairing a selection of the wines with traditional dishes of the area. 

Luckily, the car ride and the rain didn't get us down!

I highly recommend this as a stop if you ever find yourself in Barolo as it helps to put the whole area’s history into historical context. The wines of the Barolo region are probably the most celebrated of the Piedmont region, and among the most famous of Italy in general, but they weren’t always made in the style we know them as today. The grape of Barolo is Nebbiolo and it’s known for making robust still wines that can age for many years as they’re both high in tannins and acidity. (To get to know the grape a little better, check out this post.) However, up until the early 19th century, Barolo was made as a sweet, sparkling wine. Hard to believe nowadays!

Marquise de Barol.jpg
Image borrowed from Wikipedia.

The change in styles came thanks to the vision of a French woman – Marchesa Giulia Falletti di Barolo. The Marchesa was born Juliette Colbert and married the nobleman Marchese Carlo Tancredi Falletti di Barolo in Paris 1806. The Falletti estate in Barolo dates back to the 12th century, and the couple decided to move to nearby Torino after their arrival from France after their marriage. Acquainted with the wines her birth country, Julie saw the potential for making an ageable still wine from the estate’s Nebbiolo vineyards and persuaded her husband to do so. She had an intuitive understanding of the grape and the land, and their estate’s wines became known as “the wine from Barolo”, and became renowned. 

Barrel with the family crest at Marchesi di Barolo.

The couple never had children, but both were both very philanthropically inclined and viewed the poor as their adopted children. Julie had grown up during the French Revolution and been scarred by the atrocities she’d seen affecting people of all classes. Falletti had had similar ideals about justice and a desire to do good from a very young age, so the couple seems to have been very well matched in this respect. Together, they established schools, funded projects to improve and beautify Torino, set up organizations to help the poor, and co-founded the Sisters of Saint Anne which was dedicated to education and tending to the poor and those in prisons. After her husband’s death, Marchesa Giulia continued to do philanthropic work for the rest of her life and founded an orphanage near the winery in Barolo. Since the couple died without an heir, per the wishes of Marchesa Giulia, the family assets were donated to charity and a non-profit foundation was created in their name, “Opera Pia Barolo”, helping the needy of Torino. Proceeds from the wine from their Barolo vineyards continue to fund the charity today. 

In 1929, local winemaker, Pietro Abbona purchased the cellars formerly owned by the Marchesi and eventually acquired all their vineyard holdings as well. Since 2006, The estate has been under the direction of Pietro’s great-grandson and fifth-generation winemaker, Ernesto Abbona and his wife Anna, along with their two children. Today, the estate encompasses approximately 430 acres of vineyards in the Langhe which are sustainably farmed. The cellars are located in the village of Barolo, overlooking the Renaissance castle of the Marchesi Falletti di Barolo.

Here are a few more images from our visit:

The winery has extensive offerings and after our tour of the winery, we had the chance to taste quite a few alongside regional dishes. This was such an amazing experience, and the pairings really demonstrated how different wines can work wonderfully with the same dish while highlighting different elements of that dish. Even wines from the same grape but from different sites or cuvées will express themselves in diverse ways that work with the food in distinctive ways.

Join me in reliving this meal and get to know some of the expressions of Piemontese grapes.

Course One: Vitello Tonnato with Gavi and Roero Arneis

Vitello Tonnato is a dish typical of the Piedmont region, and of Northern Italy in general. (You can find a version of it in this post.)  It involves cold slices of veal covered with a creamy tuna sauce. It might sound odd at first, but it’s really good! Think of it as a light surf and turf served on one plate. It paired beautifully with their white wines, although it brought out different aspects of each wine. 

Gavi 2017 

100% Cortese | Average price across vintages: $21 

Tasting notes: It showed notes of gold apples, lemon, green melon, and white flowers. There was a light, pleasant bitter note on the finish. It was light-bodied but had some almond-like roundness on the mid-palate, making it an easy-drinking wine with some layers.

How it worked:  The food resonated with the freshness of the wine, and more mineral notes came out alongside the tuna and capers.

Other pairings recommended by the winery:  Classic wine for delicious appetizers, seafood and fish. Thanks to its structure and minerality it is the ideal companion for rice salads, vegetable pies, light first courses and seafood dishes. It goes well with fresh soft cheeses.

Roero Arneis 2017

100% Arneis | Average price across vintages: $19

Tasting notesGold apples, melon, beeswax on the nose. It showed deeper fruit and headier floral aromas, such as honeysuckle, when compared to the Gavi. On the palate, crisp green apples, herbs, and white flowers also joined the party. 

How it worked: The wine expressed deeper, fruit flavors next to the food, with the more rounded green melon notes coming out. It resonated with the creamy texture and body of the dish.

Other pairings recommended by the winery: It is traditionally combined with delicate appetizers but with intense flavors such as veal with tuna sauce, flans, pasta with vegetables, rice salads, stewed, boiled or baked white meats. It is an ideal companion for raw or marinated fish.

Course 2:  Ravioli del Plin with Two Barberas and Two Barolos

Ravioli del Plin, also called Agnolotti del Plin, are a type of pasta typical of the area that are usually filled with meat. Plin means “pinch” and the pasta get their name from how they’re sealed shut. We usually saw them topped with a simple butter sauce or a light gravy-like sauce. Here they were topped with butter and sage. We fell in love with these at this meal. Greg in particular, as he went on to order them at every meal he possibly could while we were in the region. 

These paired beautifully with their Barbera wines, and again, each worked with the dish in a different way. In this case, they essentially worked in opposite ways, but both were delicious. (I’ve covered Barbera before, so please check out this post for more on this grape.)

One more pic of the plin since we loved them so much.

Barbera d’Alba Ruvei 2016

Blend: 85% Barbera, 15% Nebbiolo | Soil: Clayey limestone soils, alternating with layers of marl. | Aged for 6 months in Slavonian Oak. |  Additional info here | Average price: $21

Tasting notesThis wine was very fresh and pretty on the nose, with notes of strawberries, cherries, and flowers. It was light, fresh, and elegant on the palate as well, with the bright red fruit notes, pink flowers, light stones, and a hint of spice. 

How it worked: This wine remained very much itself with the food, not changing very much in the pairing, but providing a fresh juxtaposition to the richer element in the dish. This is the wine to pick if you want to refresh the palate between sips or if it’s a warmer day.

Other pairings recommended by the winery: A wine for the whole meal, complete on every occasion. It goes well with tasty appetizers, first courses with rich condiments and main courses of meat, boiled or roasted, but it also exalts the traditional soups. It is the ideal companion for snacks with fresh cold cuts and hard cheeses.

Barbera d’Alba Peiragal 2016

100% Barbera |  Soil: Calcareous Sand, Clay, from a rocky slope. |  Aged for 1 year in barriques. |  Additional info here | Average price: $25

Tasting notesThis was a deeper and spicer expression of Barbera. It showed notes of red plum, raspberry, black cherry, and sweet cigar smoke on the nose. Moist tobacco, vanilla, and spices all joined in on the palate. Greg noted a candied ginger note as well. I’d bet that if you want a Barbera to age, this would be a good choice.

How it worked: This wine grew more velvety and luxurious with the Plin, matching the silky texture of the butter sauce. This is the wine to pick if you want to bring out the richer side of the dish, or to combat a chilly day. 

Other pairings recommended by the winery: It goes very well with typical Langhe appetizers, veal in tuna sauce and vegetable flan, with first courses with rich condiments and second courses of meat, boiled or roasted, but it also exalts the traditional soups. It is the ideal companion to moderately seasoned tome and hard cheeses.

Barolo Tradizione 2013

Grapes for this wine come from vineyards in Castiglione Falletto, Barolo and Monforte d’Alba | 2 years in Slavonian Oak, and then continues to age in bottle before release. | Additional info here | Average pice: $49                                                  

Tasting notesThis wine showed notes of tomato leaf, red plum, and tobacco on the nose. On the palate, these flavors were joined by orange skin, and black tea. 

How it worked: The wine became more velvety and silky alongside the food, similar to how the Barbera Peiragal worked.

Barolo Commune di Barolo 2013

A blend of their historic estate vineyards – their “grand crus" – within the municipality of Barolo, namely: Cannubi, Sarmassa, Coste di Rose, Castellero, Boschetti, Preda, Vignane and Ravera. Each is vinfied separately and aged in small oak barrels, then it is blended in traditional large Slavonian oak, and finally aged for another year in bottle. We were told that this was the chef’s favorite. |  Additional info here | Average price: $50

Tasting notesOn the nose, it showed aromas of roses, cinnamon, black tea, and cherry. More savory notes of tomato leaf and dried herbs came in on the palate. 

How it worked: Even more herbs came out when combined with the food, and the wine seemed to grow more robust in the pairing. 

Course 3: Slow-cooked Veal Shoulder Cooked in Barolo with Veggies and a Parade of Barolos

Here we have a dish with deeper, meatier flavors to go match a few different Barolo cuvées.

Barolo Sarmassa 2013

This comes from the same stony vineyard as the Barbera d’Alba Peiragal. The soil is made up largely of clay and limestone, but with a lot of rocks and stones mixed in.  These soils produce more compact grapes, but they tend to ripen evenly and show greater intensity of flavor.  We were told that the name means something along the lines of “the fighter” for the struggle the vines have to go through. The wine is aged for two years, a part in Slavonian oak barrels and the other part in French medium-toasted oak barrique. The two parts are then blended in traditional big oak barrels and the wine completes its fining in the bottle before release.  |  Additional details here | Average price: $126  ($87 across vintages)                                                                                                                                   

Tasting notesThe wine showed notes on the nose of steeped black cherry, a touch of caramel, and black tea. It was more savory on the palate with lots of herbs joining in, as well as black licorice. 

How it worked: This was wonderful with the veal shoulder and the herbal notes in the wine resonated beautifully with the food. 

Barolo Coste di Rose 2013

This comes from a slope with a 40% incline, with moderately calcareous soils that are rich in quartzite sand, fine limestone and just a small amount of clay. These soils produce a lighter, more aromatic wine. They think of it as their “Summer Barolo.”  |  Additional details here |  Average price: $48                                                                                               

Tasting notesThis was a very elegant expression of Barolo with notes of raspberry, black cherries, black tea, and flowers on the nose. Tobacco, orange peels, and cloves came out on the palate. 

How it worked: The wine helped lighten the food and refreshed the palate. Notes of licorice also emerged when sipped alongside the food. 

Barolo Riserva 2010

The grapes for this wine come from their best estate vineyards. The wine is aged for 3 years in the traditional Slavonian oak casks. The wine is then aged an additional 3 years in the bottle prior to been released under the name of Riserva. | Additional details here  | Average price: $106  ($78 across vintages)                                                                                                 

Tasting notesIt showed lots of tobacco notes, cherries, orange peel, and rose petals on both the nose and palate. There was also an element of black tea that had been steeped for just long enough, as well as hints of clove. 

How it worked: The wine had a velvety texture and grew even more so with the food. A magical combo! 

Other pairings recommended by the winery for their Barolos: Goes perfectly with traditional egg pasta from Langhe, tajarin and ravioli del plin; with roasts, boiled, braised and with game. It is the ideal companion for goats and aged hard cheeses.

Dessert:  Panna Cotta with Fruit Gelée and Moscato 

Moscato d'Asti Zagarra 

Additional information here | Average price: $16

Tasting notesThis wine had a beautiful nose of orange blossoms and a touch of cream on the nose. On the palate, there were honeysuckle blossoms and apples. It was lovely and delicate, with a pleasant sweetness.  

How it worked: The wine became more floral and light paired with the panna cotta and fruit gelée. Some of the sweetness dissipates a bit and the flavors of the wine and fruit blended together beautifully. 

Other pairings recommended by the winery: This sweet and aromatic wine goes well with desserts at the end of a meal and the classic hazelnut nougat. Ideal companion in moments of celebration, it is a pleasant thirst-quenching drink at any time of the day, especially after sports.


For another expression of Nebbiolo, check out An Anniversary Celebration with La Spinetta Vürsù Gallina Barbaresco and Braised Spatchcocked Duck.

And for more posts related to our Italian road trip check out:


The rest of the Italian Food, Wine, Travel (#ItalianFWT) blogging group is exploring the wines of Barolo. Be sure to check out the rest of their posts:

  • Barolo in His Blood: Aldo Clerico and Bagna Cauda by Gwendolyn, Wine Predator
  • Beef and Mushroom Pie with a Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2017 by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm
  • Beef Pie and Barolo Wine by Terri of A Good Life
  • Cascina Bongiovanni Pernanno Barolo con Bistecca Tagliata by Li at The Wining Hour
  • Family Favorites: Spaghetti Bolognese + Bruna Grimaldi Camilla Barolo 2016 by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
  • Touring & Dining at Marchesi di Barolo by Nicole at the Somm's Table
  • Visiting with An Old Friend, Barolo from Ciabot Berton by Susannah at Avvinare



    1. That looks like quite an amazing visit. I'd love to taste through a variety of their wines and the pairings of course look scrumptious!


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