It happens sometimes, that noble families die out for lack of descendants. It is a good thing then, when there is someone else who is willing to continue the tradition with the same passion and at the same location. This is what happened with the Abbona family that has been running the historic cellars of the Marchesi di Barolo since 1929; a responsibility the Abbonas are keenly aware of.
The Barolo is one of Italy’s most prestigious wines, and for some connoisseurs the best Italian red wine at all. It is produced in the Piedmont area from the Nebbiolo grape, which probably received its name from the early fog that is common there. Due to its powerful tannins, it is considered to be one of the wines with the highest ageing potential in the world. In former times, its enthusiasts had to wait many years until such a noble drop was ready for consumption.
The wine’s story goes back to Marchesi di Falletti, who, according to wine historians, was the first to cultivate this variety at the beginning of the 19th century. When the last marquesa, the very socially active Giulia Vittorina Falletti Colbert, died in 1864 without any children, the glorious tradition might have died. Fortunately, there was a talented and ambitious young man in the neighbourhood by the name of Pietro Abbona. In 1895, he joined his father’s vineyard close to the massive Barolo Castle. He did not rest until he was able to purchase the historic cellars from the Falletti family. The purchase happened in 1929. More than 50 years had passed, but for a Barolo, this is not an eternity.
By then, Pietro Abbona himself had become an experienced winemaker, whose operation had received various medals at exhibitions. He used the Marchesi’s venerable old barrels and let his wines mature in them. These barrels, the “Botti della Marchesa”, are still being used today (!). Barolo is just a very long-lasting wine! The company has been successful in introducing the wine to the world with the help of the two hard-working sisters, Marina and Celestina. Thus, the Barolo started its triumphant procession, and continues to fascinate fans throughout the world with its powerful, massive structure, and characteristic aroma.
This was not an easy task. Back then, there were no internationally renowned wine critics, who determined the success and the fate of a wine with the stroke of a pen. Customer after customer had to be convinced. The fifth generation of the Abbona family is still in business today, which shows the tenacity and supreme competence that characterise the wines of the Marchesi di Barolo since the change of ownership. They are reference wines for that region, which earned the proud title of a DOCG in 1980. Ernesto and Anna Abbona are well-known Barolo personalities; their son Davide is studying oenology in nearby Alba, while daughter Valentina is in charge of marketing. The family is supported by oenologist Flavio Fenocchio.
Among the wines from the more than 150-hectares of vineyards, the two Crus Cannubi and Sarmassa are especially worth mentioning. The Cannubi is part of a hillside location, where the grapes grow in the upper regions. There, two soils can be found that are typical for the Barolo area, the calcareous and quartzose “Elveziano” from sediments and the “Tortoniano”, a blue marly soil. It is these soils that give the Cannubi its mineral elegance. It ages in barriques made of French oak (medium toasted), but also in the traditional wooden barrels of Slavonian and Piedmontese oak, which are larger than the barriques and therefore give the wine less of a taste of wood. In the cellar of the Marchesi di Barolo, there are wooden barrels that can hold up to 185 hectolitres! While the Cannubi must rest for approximately one year in the bottle after 24 months in the barrel, the Sarmassa (a Tortoniano soil) is left in the bottle for 18 months before it is ready for sale. A Barolo always takes time.
In addition to the Barolo wines, the other traditional Piedmont varieties are cultivated, such as the white Roero Arneis and Gavi, the fruity Dolcetto and the Barbera. The original Barbaresco DOCG (also pressed from Nebbiolo grapes) is also represented in the port folio as are the Nebbiolo wines from Alba, which have their own origin. Even a Moscato d’Asti DOCG, the fine, naturally sweet and sparkling dessert wine made from just a single fermentation, as well as a Grappa, are part of the portfolio. Marchesi di Barolo clearly stands for consummate Piedmont pleasure from one venerable hand!
Today, visitors can visit the cellar and sample the wines in the visitor centre. A restaurant also invites visitors to sample traditional regional yet refined dishes, prepared by head chef Valter Quirico, which match the company’s elegant wines perfectly.