With Prices of Burgundy Soaring, Here’s Why You Should Turn To Barolo Wines

With Burgundy prices reaching starry heights, is Barolo the next frontier for wine lovers? We find out why oenophiles should make the switch.
by Nimmi Malhotra

Photo: Andrea Cairone

Three-Michelin-starred French fine-dining restaurant Odette stocks around 400 Burgundy wine labels. However, its wine director, Vincent Tan, notes that allocations have tightened over the past decade. As a result, the prices of wines from lesser known regions like St Aubin have increased.

And more importantly, the price of importing Burgundy wines has doubled. “The price increase in Burgundy is due to its small production scale. One cuvée produces only 600 to 1500 bottles. In terms of rarity, Burgundy is very hard to match,” he says.

Echoing the same sentiment is Stéphanie Rigourd, general manager and partner of Vintage Fine Wines, which represents a dozen prominent Burgundy estates. She shares that the Burgundy region in France is vulnerable to extreme weather, which feeds into its rarity.

“Unfortunately, the weather conditions in the last few vintages of 2016, 2018, and 2019 were a disaster, with frost, hail, and disease, and the producers lost many of their crops,” she says.


Harvesting Nebbiolo grapes in Serralunga, Italy, where the grapes will be used in the process to make Barolo. (Photo: Unsplash, Andrea Cairone)

With an uncertain supply and soaring prices, it is no surprise that attention has shifted to other wines, such as Oregon pinot noir and Barolo, long touted as “the next Burgundy”.

Comparisons between Burgundian red and Barolo are not new among wine lovers. Barolo, which is both the name of a village and a wine style, hails from Langhe, the scenic wine-growing region in Piedmont. Hailed as the “king of wines”, Barolo is Italy’s most majestic red made from the ancient Nebbiolo grape, a tannic, thick-skinned varietal known for its structure, complexity, and ageability.

On the other hand, Burgundy, celebrated as one of the greatest wines in the world, is made with pinot noir grapes in the Burgundy region. Highly collectable and prized, they have some of the most expensive bottles in the world.

The two grapes are celebrated for reflecting their terroirs. In the vineyard, they are equally temperamental and difficult to grow. In the bottle, a Burgundy pinot noir appeals with its fruity, earthy, berry profile, and Nebbiolo seduces with its roses and tar” nose, structure, and tannin. But the similarities end there — well, almost.

The beauty of Barolo

Photo: Unsplash, Sebastian

The 1,700ha of Barolo vineyards in Italy (it’s a smaller region than Burgundy vineyards, which take up 36,000ha of space) are layered on and around the breathtaking hills of Langhe and broken up into 11 small villages, including La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba, and Montforte d’Alba. Around 360 producers own small regional plots and make Barolo by blending grapes from different vineyards.

In 2007, the region was divided further into 170 named sites or crus, drawing more parallels with the fractionalised Burgundy. Known as MGAs or Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive, Barolo producers are now making single vineyard or site expressions, displaying the MGA names on the labels just like Burgundy.

However, celebrated MGA names such as Cannubi, Bussia, and Brunate do not have the same marketing ring as French grand crus like Échezeaux or La Tâche.

“To someone in Piedmont, Cannubi is like the grand cru, but to most people, it’s not a recognised term. It becomes a case of ‘if you know, you know’ since there’s no ranking to say that a Cannubi MGA is better than a Rocche dell’Annuziata,” explains Tan.

Roberto Duran, head sommelier, 67 Pall Mall Singapore. (Photo: 67 Pall Mall)

Nomenclature aside, Singapore is experiencing a growing demand for Barolo. According to the Italian Trade Agency, Piedmont imports, including Barbaresco, Dolcetto, and other Nebbiolo-based wines, are rising. $1.5 million worth of regional wines were imported in 2023, a 10 per cent jump from 2022 and a 50 per cent increase from the numbers registered in 2021.

“I believe that the perception about Barolo is changing in the market,” added Roberto Duran, head sommelier of 67 Pall Mall, private members’ club for wine lovers, where over 100 Barolos are listed on the menu. He explains tourism as one of the contributing growth factors: “Gastronomy has played a big part in the region’s success in Asia. Wine lovers have had opportunities to visit Piedmont in autumn for tartufo bianco or white truffles, visit vineyards and producers, and taste all the vintages available in the old cellars.”

Eugene Qiao, who is the Asian winemaker in Barolo, says: “We are very flattered when Barolo is compared to Burgundy because the latter is obviously the greatest wine region in the world,” she quips.

According to Qiao, a winemaker at GD Vajra, a historic Barolo producer, the comparison helps to explain some of Barolo’s nuances, like the MGA system, to fine wine lovers. While it does draw parallels with Burgundy, the two regions stand on their own merits. If anything, “Burgundy is 30 years ahead of us,” she sums up.

“You will find Barolo is still a very humble farming society,” she continues, adding that you’re likely to find calloused hands and farmers in the commune with genuine hospitality on display.

Unlike Burgundy, Barolo has a huge supply, even if not all producers export all of their wines. Odette’s Tan adds that the average annual production in Barolo amounts to 20,000 to 60,000 bottles, indicating that the wines, though rarefied and highly coveted, are unlikely to rival the astronomical prices of Burgundy.

Know your Barolo


Barolo wines at 67 Pall Mall. (Photo: 67 Pall Mall Singapore)

“To fully understand Barolo, you have to understand the 11 communes through their producers,” says Jessica Tan, an Italian wine educator who has visited the region a dozen times and intimately knows the soils, the land, and the winemakers.

She singles out La Morra for its powerful and age-worthy wines and Serralunga d’Alba for a more restrained style. “Verduno is a commune that reminded me of northern Rhone for its peppery and floral notes. The wines are lighter, slightly spicy, and always in demand,” she notes.

Most Barolo producers, including the greats like Giacomo Conterto and Bruno Giacosa, are widely available in Singapore.

Roberto Voerzio is often hailed as the greatest winemaker in Piedmont. (Photo: Roberto Voerzio)

La Morra is home to a few celebrated names, like Roberto Voerzio, often called the greatest winemaker in Piedmont; Oddero, celebrated for its efforts in sustainability; and Elio Altare. Another celebrated name, Pio Cesare, is based in Alba, with vineyards spread across Serralunga d’Alba and Nouvello.

She also highlights mid-tier producers like La Morra-based Trediberri and Rivetto of Serralunga di Alba as undiscovered gems.

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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