BAROLO CHINATO, A STROKE OF GENIUS BY PIEDMONT WINEMAKERS
Drunk on the rocks, used in cooking or paired with chocolate, Barolo Chinato is truly a Piedmonts liqueur. It is a masterpiece created through centuries of dedication to wine, extractions and enological experiments.
Maybe its not common knowledge, but Piedmont is not only world-renown for its wine, it has been a long-time hub of research and development on distillated liqueurs. The local viticulture, especially during the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, encouraged and prompted a lasting dedication to liqueurs, distillation and alcohol infusions. At the heart of Italy’s winemaking industry, Piedmont is the birthplace of Cinzano and Martini & Rossi whose stories start in Santa Vittoria d’Alba and Pessione, respectively. In Torino, the most celebrated infused wine, vermouth was created by Dr. Domenico Ulrich in the mid-19th century. He launched a brand of vermouth and other spirits that rose to immense fame and which still carries his name to this day.
Barolo Chinato, for all intents and purposes, is part of a long tradition of tradition and promotion of territorial uniqueness.
BAROLO CHINATO MARCARINI
Barolo of the past
Before the unification of Italy, before the rules and regulations of modern winemaking defined a region, Barolo was a sweet wine. No winemakers were vinifying it dry, but instead leaving residual sugars to eventually transform it into a fizzy wine. In the same period, large epidemics of cholera and malaria were finally being defeated with the use of quinine, a natural alkaloid with antimalarial, analgesic, and antibacterial properties. It is extracted from cinchona bark, a plant native to South America, Africa, India and Indonesia. Legend has it that some pharmacists used this extract to sterilize the Barolo and prevent secondary fermentation, it remained a secret amongst a few select pharmacists before it became a widespread method of vinification. Thus, Barolo Chinato was born.
Elixir or wine?
The cinchona extracts are particularly bitter, so it became necessary to infuse other herbs and essences to balance the flavour. The one thing, however, that was never added was sugar. Barolo Chinato was never sweetened, as the Barolo wine was already sweet. The result was a drink halfway between a liqueur and an elixir, to sip at the end of the meal, but also to be used as a tonic. Even to this day Marcarini has license to sell their Barolo Chinato in pharmacies, signaling its illustrious ‘pharmalogical’ past.
The Modern Recipe
In the late 19th century Barolo began to resemble what we know it as today as winemakers started making it dry. Barolo Chinato, by extension, also changed its profile. Today’s taste is a balanced infusion of herbs and spices (cinchona bark, rhubarb root, cardamom, etc.) in alcohol that is combined with an excellent quality, well aged Barolo. The result is a digestive that is balanced and harmonic, characterized by an immediate enjoyability and a pleasurable aftertaste.
Agriturismo Marcarini’s liqueur
On last tidbit of knowledge. The first production facility of our Barolo Chinato was in Nevigli, which is now the current home of Marcarini’s Agriturismo; it was here that the old recipe, passed from generation to generation, was rediscovered and a new production began.