The History And Enology Behind The Castles Of Barolo


Serralunga d'Alba castle

The Barolo hills are known all over the world for their high-quality wines.

Part of their charm traces back to their history which, in this small area of southern Piedmont, shows through a series of majestic Medieval castles, some of which became central figures in the wine adventure that led to the birth of Barolo.

After showing you the landscape and the terroir of the Barolo hills, Duchessa Lia will take you on a journey to discover the manors of the area and let you experience the subtle charm that can be felt while admiring the World Heritage vineyards from the top of a crenellated tower.

where it all started

The Castle of Grinzane Cavour is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular edifices in the Langhe. Its compact, squat, square and imposing form solidly stands on a small hill overlooking the homonymous small village of Grinzane, located a few kilometers west of Alba, along the road that leads to the town of Barolo. Surrounded by spectacular vineyards, it was built in the 11th century and has undergone remodeling several times. In 1800, it was the home of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, a renowned statesman for the Savoy family and then minister of the newborn Kingdom of Italy. The cellars of the castle were visited by Louis Oudard, a famous French winemaker who revealed the true potential of Nebbiolo to the inhabitants of Piedmont, effectively commencing the history of contemporary Barolo. Today, the Castle of Grinzane houses a collection of Cavour memorabilia, an ethnographic museum dedicated to wine and the Enoteca Regionale Piemontese.

where Marquise Falletti invented “the wine of Kings and the King of wines”

In the center of Barolo, not far from the Castle of Grinzane Cavour, rises another majestic manor. It was owned by the Falletti family, a noble Medieval house that had many properties in Langhe. The history of the Castle is particularly linked to the fame of Juliette Colbert, who married Carlo Tancredi Falletti in 1806, becoming the Marquise of Barolo. Juliette was committed to charity work, but she also engaged with wine, the main source of income of her possessions. Together with Count Camillo Benso, she had the intuition to “ennoble” Barolo which, according to documents, was very different from the wine we know today (it must have been sweet and sparkling). Colbert started new “French-style” vinifications, which produced a dry and well-structured wine The result was so surprising that the new wine began to be called by the name of its place of origin: Barolo. But for Barolo to truly stand out, a “royal” seal was needed: the Marquise obtained this by employing a brilliant “marketing strategy”. When King Carlo Alberto asked her to let him taste a glass of Barolo, she replied by sending him over 300 barrels with a capacity of 500 liters each. The gargantuan delivery from the Marquise attracted wide media coverage and, since then, Barolo has been associated with the Savoy: it had become «the wine of Kings» and also «the King of wines».

a Medieval jewel of the Langhe

Also owned by the Falletti family, the Castle of Serralunga did not have a particular influence on the region’s wine history. But its splendid architecture, that has been wonderfully preserved, makes it must-see during a visit to the Barolo hills. The manor was built between 1340 and 1350 and was shaped like a French donjon (keep), featuring a “tower castle” whose impressive height does not go unnoticed. Upon climbing its steep stairs, a breathtaking panorama unfolds: the view sweeps over the most spectacular vineyards of Barolo and, in a single glance, all the riches of the Langhe are unraveled. The populated areas near the Tanaro River, the vineyards stretching on the lower hill and the wild ridges of the Alta Langa, covered by lush woods. The Castle of Serralunga is wonderfully preserved because it was never turned into a noble residence, thus letting it keep its austere and military form, a reminder of a time when the lands of Langa had to defend themselves from invaders.


To keep us company in our journey through vineyards and castles is a bottle of «the wine of Kings», Barolo Docg Duchessa Lia. A noble, deep and balanced wine, Barolo Docg Duchessa Lia has a profound soul that is always easy to understand: on the palate it showcases an enveloping astringency, a typical trait of the Nebbiolo grape; but the mouth continues to reveal a full flavor, releasing hints of red fruits, spices and delicate balsamic notes given by its long aging. The wine ages for at least 4 years, spending 18 months in wooden barrels.


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