The best wine writers are willing to offend if it means telling the truth. That’s easier said than done. When a writer publishes an article or a book that is likely to offend the producers that he or she covers, that can make future work more difficult. Doors close. Phone calls or emails are not returned.
Fortunately for us, Kerin O’Keefe is willing to offend if she has to. That’s not her mission. As the Italian Editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, she has delineated her values. If producers don’t agree, she doesn’t allow that to alter her writing.
Her 2012 book Brunello di Montalcino staked out clear lines in the growing debate over a region’s sense of place. Her newest book, Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine, offers a similarly valuable perspective on a wine region’s evolution.
I would have welcomed O’Keefe’s profiles when I started my Barolo Odyssey.
Her accurate profiles of producers I know make me want to explore producers profiled that I have not encountered. The strength of this book is that it gives a detailed coherent account of the present and immediate past of Barolo and Barbaresco. This is a complicated story that O’Keefe has researched very effectively as a professional journalist. …This is a well-told, unique story of two of the greatest of wines anywhere.
Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine by Kerin O’Keefe (University of California Press, £25) had me reaching for words such as “definitive” and even “magisterial”. Don’t let those rather pompous words put you off – it’s a good read, too.
The University of California Press has just published Kerin O’Keefe’s Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wines (346 pp, maps, photos, index: $39.95). I’ve been wanting to announce this ever since, over a year ago, I read the manuscript for the Press and enthusiastically recommended publication: To my mind, this is the most important book on these two great wines yet published.
O’Keefe began writing about Italian wine full-time in 2002, writing some excellent articles in Decanter, a British wine magazine; she continued writing for Decanter until 2013. She also has written for The World of Fine Wine–the Rolls-Royce of all wine magazines. In April, 2013, Kerin accepted a new position as Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Italian Wine Editor.
Barolo and Barbaresco is Kerin O’Keefe’s third wine book. Her first book, Franco Biondi Santi: The Gentleman of Brunello, was published in 2005. Kerin followed that with Brunello: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines, in 2012. Both books were critically acclaimed.
O’Keefe’s Barolo and Barbaresco is written in three parts: Part One covers the history of both wines, and the origin of Nebbiolo. Part Two, the longest section, profiles 43 Barolo producers. Part Three covers 29 Barbaresco producers. In these two parts, producers are listed by the village in which their wineries are located. The Appendix is highlighted by a Vintage Guide to Barolo and Barbaresco, starting with1945, and going up to 2010–the current vintage of Barolo available as of 2014. O’Keefe employs a “star” rating–one to five stars–to rank the vintages.
O’Keefe’s book is a tour de force, a magnificent, comprehensive tome that required loads of research. I am happy that she possessed the ability and passion to take on this herculean undertaking. I think that every Barolo and Barbaresco wine lover will benefit from reading her Barolo and Barbaresco.
Among the world’s great wine regions, the Piedmont in northwestern Italy, home of Barolo and Barbaresco, has lagged far behind in focused English language appraisals. Kerin O’Keefe’s “Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine” (University of California Press, $39.95) goes a long way to fill the void. O’Keefe, an American wine critic who lives in Italy, offers a comprehensive look at the history, geography, geology and issues faced in the Piedmont, and opinionated profiles of the producers she feels are the best and most important.
O’Keefe, who wrote a similar guide to Brunello di Montalcino in 2012, is thorough and authoritative. She is a critic in the best sense of the word, not shy with her opinions, which she offers without polemics or bluster. This book is not for novices; readers are expected to have an understanding of how wine is farmed and produced. But for those who have delved into Barolo and Barbaresco and want to know more about where the wines are made, the people who make them and the differences in terroirs, this book is inspiring and essential.
No discussion of Barolo and Barbaresco would be complete without mention of Bruno Giacosa, one of Italy’s most esteemed producers. Paolo Tenti reports on “the genius of Neive.”
He’s the producer who inspired a generation of winemakers. A pioneer in introducing single-vineyard bottlings of Barolo and Barbaresco. And a man who’s not afraid to say no to a vintage if he thinks the grapes are not good enough.
Born into the family wine firm, Bruno Giacosa started his career at the tender age of 15 as a grape buyer, sourcing fruit for his father and grandfather, and then for many of Barolo’s large houses. In 1960, he started his own company and soon became famous for both his golden palate and his ability to recognize the best vineyards in the Langhe.
Thanks to his vast hands-on experience with growers – and his years spent seeking out the best grapes – he was among the first producers in the area to bottle single-vineyard wines. They included the now legendary Barolo Collina Rionda.
The stars of Italy’s Piedmont region are Barolo, Barbaresco and white truffles, but it’s possible to get an authentic taste of the region without taking out a second mortgage.
Every year, more tourists flock to Italy’s northwest in search of the latest Barolos and Barbarescos—two of the country’s most famous and expensive wines—and to enjoy the area’s upscale dining, especially in the fall when rare white truffles make an appearance.
Alba and the nearby Langhe hills are the undisputed epicenter of Piedmont’s fine wine and dining scene, boasting 12 Michelin-starred restaurants within a 10-mile radius.
And judging by the boom of recently opened luxury hotels, spas and golf resorts, the Langhe certainly seems to cater to an upscale clientele.
Fortunately, there’s another side to these hallowed hills. For visitors who don’t want to break the bank, the region also offers simple country hotels in the vineyards and informal restaurants that specialize in local cuisine.
Best of all for wine lovers, Piedmont’s famed Barolo and Barbaresco producers also make delicious, affordable wines that can be served with a variety of dishes and offer sheer drinkability—Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto.
These wines are growing in popularity, and with an increasing number of labels imported to the U.S., they offer a little taste of Piedmont here at home.
The classically crafted Barolos of Bartolo Mascarello are cult favorites of Barolophiles around the world.
Unlike many of today’s top Barolo producers – growers who started making their own wines in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – the Mascarello family have been making and bottling their own wines for generations.
Maria Teresa Mascarello, who runs the firm today, learned to make wine from her father Bartolo, an iconic producer who died in 2005. Bartolo joined the firm in 1945 and learned winemaking from his father, Giulio, who in turn had been trained by his own father, Bartolomeo.