The Wine Coach: Let the Games Begin

On February 10, 2006, the winter Olympics will begin in Torino, Italy. I, for one, am excited. It’s not what you think. I don’t have a passion for skiing, speed skating or curling. Torino happens to be the capital of the prestigious Piedmont wine region, home to the legendary red wines of Barolo. There is an old adage from this region: “Wine is red.” With an estimated 70% of the vineyards planted with red grapes, this region knows about making world class red wines. Since the Olympic Games are drawing attention to this region, I thought it might make sense to introduce you to what is sometimes called the “wine of kings.”

Barolo is produced from the native Nebbiolo grape. Nebbiolo (pronounced neh-BYOH-loh) is known for its garnet color, aromas of tar, roses, plums, anise, and a considerable amount of tannin. Tannins are naturally astringent substances found in grape skins. They are perceived in our mouths as a sense of dryness and are naturally softened by the animal fats found in meats or dairy products. Winter foods tend to be heavier and more meat-centric, making them perfect pairings for the bold, robust flavors of Barolo. Tannins act as a preservative for the wine. Tannins are also an antioxidant, which with moderate consumption, can be fabulous for your heart. For this reason, Barolos are known for their ability to stand the test of time. It is usually good to look for a Barolo with at least a few years of age for a softer, more mouth-pleasing experience.

Similar to the Olympics, the Italian wine industry has a system to award top performers. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) has identified over 300 areas within Italy that adhere to traditional methods to produce quality wines. Only 30 areas have been awarded the status of Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). Barolo, along with six other areas in Piedmont, has been awarded DOCG status, or what amounts to a gold medal in winemaking. It is still important to pay attention to the specific winery or producer since ultimately they have a profound influence on the final product. You can identify DOCG wines from Italy by looking for a strip on the top of the bottle. It will either be pink for red wines or green for white wines. Both will display the DOCG designation, along with the Italian seal of approval.

Whether or not you plan on watching the winter games, I invite you to visit your local wine shop and pick up a bottle of Barolo. Fix yourself a wonderful beef stew; sit by the fire, and who knows, you might become a fan of curling after all!

Interested in traveling to Piedmont, Italy? Consider joining The Wine Coach, Laurie Forster, this fall for her first international wine tour! To find out more about The Wine CoachTM events, tours or sign up for her free weekly wine tips visit or email


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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