by Alessandro Franceschini
From Marchesi di Barolo comes a ‘talking book’ which has three-dimensional illustrations relating the story of the noble red
In the age of e-books, smartphones and tablets, when there seems to be an instant answer for everything in internet and its deus-ex-machina Google, the very idea of writing a book on paper would appear rather short-sighted, not to say archaic. Especially if the objective is to relate known events, around which it is easy to fill in the gaps with a click today. All the more so if it is a ‘talking book’; one of those you find in the boxes of memories in your attic, or in some bookshops on the children’s shelves. Those that you open and, rather than leaf through them, you watch as vertical figures pop up, with fairy tale castles and characters. “They make room for dreams, you hold them in your hand and play with them; they are not disposable.” When the president of Marchesi di Barolo, Ernesto Abbona, had the idea of setting down in a book the history of the company his family bought in 1929 from Opera Pia Barolo, the Antiche Cantine dei Marchesi di Barolo whence comes one of the most iconic wines in the world, his thoughts ran to what he could preserve, and touch, lightheartedly. “An infantile idea, I suppose. But the idea of discovering, and perhaps rediscovering, that it was not so easy to find people capable of producing an object such as this, in an increasingly technological world, amused me.” Much, if not all, has already been written on the creation of Barolo, Giulietta Colbert di Malèvrier and Carlo Tancredi Falletti. “A Disney-like tale,” reads a company note, “where good triumphs: still today, Opera Pia Barolo, the charitable trust founded by the Marchioness, makes wishes come true thanks to her substantial bequest.”
Relating through four plates events that began on 18 August 1806 is an impossible undertaking. Leaving room for the imagination with drawings and illustrations that suddenly emerge from a little book does still, however, have an effect. “After all, it’s a lovely tale, and true, that describes the creation of Barolo and the Marchesi di Barolo winery. It is the story of two people who had everything in life, except children, so they tried to share their love with others, giving the less fortunate an opportunity to redeem themselves. Although they were severe with those who deserved it.”
In all, 3,000 copies were printed and they are not for sale. “We give them to people who love our winery and Barolo. To those who deserve it, in short.” Ernesto Abbona sees the matter of merit as crucial. “Mer- it is the only instrument everyone accepts. And my family and that of the Marchesi di Barolo have this aspect in common. The history of my family is one of wilful people. In difficult years, after the First World War, they came up with the resources to buy this company through hard work, and naturally, availing of credit. And credit is given only to those who deserve it.” From the meeting in the Imperial Court of Versailles with the subsequent wedding (1st plate), to moving house, firstly to Turin and soon afterwards to Barolo where the Falletti family owned two castles (2nd plate), the book condenses into a few ‘talking’ pages a story that is legendary for lovers of the Langhe district and its favourite wine. The third plate portrays the famous anecdote featuring the by-now Marchioness Falletti and King Carlo Alberto, eager to sample the celebrated wine produced on his estates, “which seems to rival the wines of France with their coats- of-arms, which I have never tasted,” reads the brief note placed beneath the illustrations. A short time later, a long line of carts, each one bearing “long, flat barrels with a six-hundred-litre capacity,” set off for Turin transporting 325 carrà (at that time this was the unit of measurement employed in transportation), “one for every day of the year, apart from the 40 days of Lent,” to quench the King’s ‘thirst’.
The final plate is a summary of the events the winery has lived through, with the crest of the Municipality of Barolo, a portrait of the Marchioness Giulia which is hung in Palazzo Barolo, a depiction of a banquet in the noble hall in Barolo Castle, the collection of historic medals and the picture of the bottles as they were in the past and as they are now. And then there is the portrait of the Abbona family today. “My family is so steeped in the history of the Marchesi di Barolo that our name has practically dissolved into that of the winery. And now it is up to new, young, talents - my children Valentina and Davide - to continue this beautiful story.” A story that now becomes ‘liquid’ with the tasting of three vintages.
Nervy, at times almost surly on the palate, it offers wonderful finesse and a frisson of timidity in the bouquet. Barolo in progress, as is normal for its youth, with a striking olfactory side redolent of earthy touches, crisp young red fruits and notes of nutmeg. With tight tannins and nice vivacity, it closes on a decidedly spicy note.
Dense ruby-red with faint garnet glints, its colour is remarkably compact. The bouquet opens with sweet, warm, slightly ethereal notes, which recall cherry preserve, and broadens to a fine range of dried fruit. The tannins are in a mellower vein than in the 2011, and are already showing beautiful balance. Excellent finale extending into notes of walnut and violets.
Barolo Riserva 2009
Riserva 2009 is rich, and offers a range of intense, sweet and marvellously compact aromas. Iridescent, it alternates delicate notes of melon and violet with flashes of fruit in alcohol, spices and touches of damp earth. The palate already reveals harmony, and the tannin texture shows good finesse and compactness, and is a pleasing foil to the acidic component