Getting into Barolo

I mean, $20 to $30 in general for wine across the Globe is a sweet spot for the best QPR. I am not sure that applies in Piedmont. I actually first saw that range written by Eric Asimov and agree with it. For example, I really enjoy Fonterutoli Chianti Classico and think it is a great wine in that price point. I think the QPR curve goes up tremendously between $10 to $20 from $20 to $30 and then starts increasing more slowly. Just my opinion.

I just opened and tried the 1997 Aldo Conterno Colonello, inspired by this discussion. I think it is good, but not great. It seems like a strike between modern and traditional, at least to me. It has good tannins and acidity, but not overwhelming. Do I think it is worth the $130 or $150 I paid at auction? Probably not. I don’t find it to be THAT interesting.

I think everyone is right to just try producers and gain experience. I appreciate the naming of specific ones - it seems like people agree on a number of them.

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Impressive and funny that the value you mentioned is pretty much what the wine(s) cost when a retailer works with their regular margins!

The only downside is of course that the allocation is quite thin as well for those lucky to be on it.

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If you are getting into Barolo buy the classicos.

Fratelli Alessandria
Cogno Cascina Nuova
Vietti Castiglione
Vajra Albe

These wines offer some of the greatest value in the world, are ready sooner than many more “important” exemplars, and yet can still provide a couple of decades of evolution. Do not think of these wines in particular as lesser wines. They are not. They are fabulous. They are also Barolo so ignore people who post notes on them after 4 years complaining that they aren’t showing anything. They are classical wines that will close down for a year or three.

Do not chase points, do not chase single vineyards too rashly. Barolo needs time, the best need the most time. Ask yourself if you have the time. Do you want to wait 15 years to figure out if you like them or not?

Find people who have aged wines, drink with them.

Buy some middle aged wines and try them. I do not recommend older wines, as they have provided me with a low success rate so I avoid them at this point, anything older than 1989 has to be cheap to be enticing, and they are not.

Look out for some of the young producers, Trediberri comes to mind, offering a fresher traditional wine at affordable prices.

Other less expensive options that offer terrific values include:

Claudio Boggione Brunate
Bruna Grimaldi Baudarina
Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia
Pecchenino San Giuseppe


Good to hear, and reassuring that Fabio hasn’t let his ego bump his ex-cellar prices up to the level of the secondary market madness.


I think what you are saying is “the increase of perceived quality vs. rate of perceived cost slows down as you get to higher $ values”. That’s a consensus held truth. However, it seems arbitrary to say $20-30 is the sweet spot. For example, JMT Bouley loses money on his Haut Cotes (as he told me in 2022), a wine which he produces similarly to his well lauded 1er Crus… a bottle of wine that costs $50 USD… it doesn’t strike me as bad QPR. I would say that is excellent QPR ratio. Halting at $20-30 also takes into account budget. There is finite capacity to drink, and someone’s $60 may be someone else’s $10… so that person’s QPR analysis may very well start at $60 (i.e., “rate of perceived cost”).

I think you should taste through nebbiolo at various price points (ideally blind) and then determine for yourself where do you perceive the value drop off to occur. Every region will be different (see the Bouley example above). In order of operations, I would suggest what others said about establishing the style of wine first (modern vs. traditional… or said another way… riper/extracted vs more structured/elegant) and then establish your own sense of QPR.

Lots of great examples above, and many shops in the area will cater to your request to assemble a mixed case. You probably need two retailers to get the whole lot of producers mentioned in this thread. Chambers is a good one (the staff there are really thoughtful and will enjoy a ‘modern’ vs. ‘traditional’ take on things), but you have many to choose from.

If you are you looking for $20-30 barolo, then I would rephrase this post as “Sub $30 Nebbiolo” as then you can pursue the grape (nebbiolo) and not worry about classifications (“barolo”) which will be limiting at that price point.

The man strikes me as egoless. Very humble and very focused on making his best wines. Apologizes for being unable to do anything about secondary prices. Last I heard, Monvigliero is still EUR89 at the cantina! Positively, his pelaverga, barbera, rosato, langhe rosso can still be found for under $30 (meeting OP’s targets) which I think are excellent QPR for wines made by one of the masters of the grape.

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Indeed, that was how it felt back when we visited, and also true of a good many producers there. Indeed I recall Renzo Accomasso’s bemoaning of the fancy cars and suits emerging in the region - he very much saw himself as a wine farmer.

For sub-30 Nebiiolo, I would recommend Vietti, Produttori del Barbaresco.
Tried FontanaFredda few times - not my cup of tea. It lack just everything compared to the above.

Just my opinion, I am either not a fan or not aware of the producers you have thus far - as advised by others, I’d stick to some of the classic producers. I do imagine the Scavino Bric del Fiasc will be solid, especially recent vintages, as they’ve significantly cut down on oak.

For $20-30, the only options are Langhe Nebbiolo or perhaps vajra’s Albe. The Vietti Perbacco is stunning - I love the 2020, I imagine the 2021 will also be good but maybe a bit more structured. This is a great example of Nebbiolo that’s near Barolo quality, but a bit more accessible.

Vajra Albe is solid for $30-35 ish as well.

For $40-50, your options are limited. Luigi Baudana’s Serralunga Barolo should be near that range, as well as Vietti Castiglione.

At closer to $100, you can add Vajra BDV, Grasso Gavarini Chiniera, Baudana Baudana / Cerretta, and some of the Fratelli Alessandria wines to the list, as some examples. But all of these wines need cellaring in good vintages (ie 2019). 2017s may still be on the market and they’re likely more giving, and 2020s when they come on the market will be more giving.

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I really, really appreciate the great responses I’ve received so far. I’m very glad to have discovered this site.

I was too general before and want to clarify. For my typical bottle of Barolo (or Barbaresco) I would like to spend $75 or under.

When I said the best QPR is $20 to $30, I meant for wine overall. It is just my personal opinion that, say, for example, you can get a really nice Chianti Classico in that range or a nice Riesling and so on and so forth and it gives you the best bang for your buck.

I would tend to think a good QPR for Barolo is higher - maybe around $50. That said, I am curious if others believe that paying twice as much for a single vineyard is worth it compared to the “basic” Barolo from many producers.


Whilst there are exceptions, thankfully most SV bottlings aren’t double the price of the standard Barolo: I reckon +25% would be the average. At that level I’d say it’s situational, not just in producer/SV, but also what we’re looking for.

i.e. SV’s can be useful when wanting something more specific e.g. one that might be approachable young, vs. one that will absolutely shine in the cellar. They often benefit as well from being selected into that bottling, with some non selected grapes
going into the std. barolo (or into the langhe nebbiolo, if say young vines or not ideal quality).

Std. Barolo, often blended across sites, can still be very good indeed, and some make a point of not making it a ‘lower quality’ wine than their SV bottlings, instead championing the old approach of trying to make such a blend ‘more than the sum of its parts’. Such wines might be especially good in a tricky vintage, able to soften issues across the blend, and indeed in some tricky vintages, a std. barolo might be all they make.

  • Langhe nebbiolo often nominally the best value of all, but also perform a wonderful role on being ready to drink earlier / not closing down hard (if at all), and thus allowing us time to let the fancier wines sleep for the time they deserve to show well / excite. Definitely good ‘school night’ wines, but better examples can happily show well / shine with a sunday roast.

Sp at +20-25% of the standard bottling, I’d say it’s more of a preference thing, and if exploring the region, you’ve got options of how deep you want to delve into terroir nuances. In terms of detail, the progression is something like:
Barolo (potentially a blend across many communes)

Barolo del commune di… (e.g. Barolo del commune di Verduno, using grapes only from Verduno)

Barolo [single vineyard] (e.g. Barolo - Rocche dell’Annunziata, which is a cru within La Morra commune)

plus there are ‘riserva’ bottlings, often single vineyard, but not always. Typically they’ll have an extra year’s age before release vs. a non-riserva. How different they are depends on what the producer is doing when selecting from the grapes they have, and sometimes how they treat them in the barrel.

As for difference in quality between a wine and one double the price. I don’t see Barolo as much different to any other leading wine region:

  • Avoid the very bottom, typically negociant labels or lesser co-ops, relying solely on the prestige of ‘Barolo’, with the wine in the bottle often an insipid wine offering less of interest than similarly priced Langhe nebbiolo

  • Once out of this ‘commodity wine’, there’s super value to be had, but IMO better by getting to know lesser known producers, rather than bigger companies trying to hit a price point like Fontanafredda, Marchesi di Barolo etc.

  • As you progress up in price, I’d say the value gets progressively worse (pretty much in line with your own thoughts), and that especially true of the wines that are talked up by critics, and also to a degree by us lot in a groupthink way. The best value IMO is found by sniffing it out yourself, as there’s not a horde of people following the same recommendations.

That said… It should never solely be about a focus on value, otherwise we’d all just be drinking riesling every day :wink: Having a choice of: a good representative, yet approachable Barolo; or a specific more floral cru; or a rugged tannic monster to have ageing in the cellar definitely helps gives us those choices we both love and get overstressed about. It’s also good to have ‘school night’ wines, weekend wines, and special meal wines, so a range of prices can be very sensible.

FWIW I think the most expensive Barolo I’ve bought was probably ~ €65, but if inflation adjusting, maybe make that €80. Rather frustratingly, though, some of those would now cost a lot more e.g. wines from Burlotto, Bartolo Mascarello, Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, Lorenzo Accomasso, Giuseppe Rinaldi (without an allocation of these wines, that often are much closer to more reasonable ex-cellar pricing). I try not to look at current market prices - it doesn’t help the drinking experience. Such bottles though are lovely to share at wine tastings or with friends.


Ian’s answer is excellent and in-depth. But the short version is: ‘worth it’ is up to the individual, their tastes, and their budget. Really the only way to decide is to try these wines yourself.

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I would also say it depends on your time horizon. On or near release, a blended Barolo may drink better than a single vineyard wine, especially because with certain producers, they make the wine in a slightly more accessible way (i.e. Vajra Albe vs. Vajra Bricco delle Viole).

Over the long run, I think you get more value with the single vineyard wines. For one, if you’re going to store a wine 10-20 years, the cost of storage becomes meaningful and is a fixed cost regardless of the initial price of the wine. I would say the quality of Vajra BDV vs. Albe, Baudana Baudana/Cerretta vs. the commune Serralunga wine, is significantly higher especially with age relative to the price gap.


I have to comment on the Vajra Albe vs BdV because this is such a great example. I’ve tried to taste these side by side in recent vintages soon after I get my hands on them. The Albe is usually pretty tasty but the BdV always offers so much more. But the BdV is often very tannic, tight, and if I get unlucky on timing, really clenched. So I have both. But more of the BdV :smiley:.

Still, I’m wildly inconsistent. For ‘18 I bought a Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo early to try and skipped the Albe, going relatively light on this vintage. For ‘19 also no Albe as it seemed to be a harder, tannic vintage and I worry that none of these will be especially charming so young.

For me, part of the ‘worth it’ calculation depends so much on the producer and how well I know their wines. I buy Vajra’s top wines every vintage and don’t worry about it too much.

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A lot of great info here already, but adding simply to say … if you want to try a range of things at fairly reasonable prices, dip into some 2016s in the price range that suits you. They are drinking shockingly well already, and it’ll give you a great example of the variety of styles in play. You can drink those wines over 2-3 days easily and get a great impression of them. Barolo is unspeakably beautiful stuff, and it doesn’t have to be mega-old to enjoy … although the really old ones can be a lot of fun!

I just wanted to add that if you are looking at current vintages, look at '19, '20 and '21. The '19s are more austere but I like them personally and think they should age well. '20 is fresh and forward but I like them more than I thought I would. They are fruity without showing anything overripe or roasted. '21 seems like a it could combine the best of both. These impressions come largely from what I’ve read and my experiences with several Langhe Nebbiolo sampled by the same producer from each of these vintages.

While there may be some decent and earlier drinking '17s and ‘18s, I don’t think you will find them particularly representative of the producers’ best quality or style, and they lack consistency at the very least. Grabbing '16s while they are still available, as Tom mentions, is great advice as it’s an excellent vintage. I am finding many of those that drank well early have now shut down. That could be sample bias, bad luck, or personal taste though. I prefer not to follow reds over several days, so YMMV.

These responses are amazingly interesting and helpful. I am curious - how important do you find aging to be? Since I want to start exploring Barolo now, should I buy older bottles from auction? Or can I buy retail and get a good expression of a Barolo, albeit a younger one, by decanting before drinking?

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Grabbing '16s as suggested makes some sense to me. I don’t know about today, but on release almost all of the wines were very open for a ‘classic’ vintage. Some of the most structured wines, i.e. G. Conterno, seem to have shut down based on what I’ve tasted, but possible others remain accessible.

Personally, I would not suggest buying older wines at auction as a great strategy, but on the other hand how else can you get those bottles if you didn’t buy them on release. I just find that the success rate of buying older Italian wines at auction (certainly pre-2010) is uncomfortably low, likely for a combination of reasons (storage in Italy is often poor, they weren’t high-end collectible wines so less likely to have been bought by collectors storing them well, etc)

These are some more very subjective questions. Answers all start with “it depends …” :slight_smile:

How important is aging?

  • It depends on the wine/vintage in question. Most of the higher end Barolos are made in a very structured way so that they rarely show their best without some age. Some vintages (e.g. 2012, 2018) tend to show better in youth. Some (2013) need a lot of age. And there’s a world of difference between, say, Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia (needs a ton of aging, nearly always very structured), and Vietti Castiglione (often quite good in youth, plus can age a few years and still be wonderful).
  • Side question: how many years are we really talking? Again, it depends! To my taste, top Barolos from most structured vintages (2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 recently) will want 15 - 20 years at least. Some may not show their best for 25-30 years. So that means (right now, in 2024) 1999, 2001, 2004 (some older structured vintages) are starting to really show nicely now in most cases. 2006 and 2008 are starting to open up too. But other vintages (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012) are showing pretty well now in many cases.
  • It depends on your taste! This is hugely important. What do you like? What flavor profiles do you prefer? How do you react to tannins? Do you mostly drink your Barolo with meals? What kind of meals? For example, with rich meaty dishes, tannins are much more manageable even with very young Barolo.

So how do you figure out if you like aged Barolo?

  • Make new friends that have old cellars. This is your best method but can be difficult to find local folks whose schedule/location/etc. matches yours. Wine lovers are an amazingly generous group that love to share with other enthusiasts. No kidding!
  • Buy aged Barolo at auction (I’d look for 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008 - these are all more or less in the zone and will show some aged character. Some may still be far too young and tannic/closed). This was my primary way of getting educated about aged wine. I guess I disagree with Rob on this one. I think buying aged wine at auction is pretty much the ONLY way to find bottles like this reasonably easily. I have literally bought hundreds (edit: it’s more like thousands, much to the chagrin of my credit cards) of older bottles at auction and my failure rates are very low - mostly right around the failure rate of new bottles. But you have to do your homework and know what bottle conditions to avoid (that’s a different subject).
  • On Italian wine from auction, my experience is that the late 1990s seem to be the quality cut-off. Bottles I’ve bought from before, say, 1996, have had a much higher failure rate. Buying wine from 1999 and forward (again, know what to look out for) I think is extremely safe.

Richard gave you a very good answer. I think that young Barolo, if you drink it before it shuts down, can be very enjoyable and, with some experience, can give you an idea about its eventual evolution. If you try them when they are young and open I find them much more enjoyable than young BDX for instance, and more like Burgundy for their youthfully accessible phase. These wines do shut down hard, at which point a (long and vigorous) decant might help, but is often insufficient.