Barolo Chinato



Barolo Chinato is a traditional spiced, lightly fortified wine made from Barolo, somewhat like a red Vermouth. In general such wines are known in Italian as a Vino Aromatizzato and are used as digestives. Barolo Chinato is distinguished in part by the fact that the wine used must be real Barolo, that is 100% Nebbiolo certified as DOCG Barolo. Sometimes very high quality Barolo is used. For example, a recent Barolo Chinato from traditional producer Roagna is made with their La Rocca e la Pira Barolo Riserva 2001, a great wine on its own.

The name chinato (pronounced KEY-not-toe) comes from a critical ingredient, the bark of the cinchona calisaya tree from South America. Cinchona is called china (pronounced KEY-nah) in Italian, hence chinato for the drink. This bark is also sometimes called china bark in English and is the source of quinine. Other sources of bitters include gentian root (used in the soft drink Moxie), rhubarb root, wormwood (used in absinthe), and ginseng. Ingredients often used to flavor Chinato include cinnamon, coriander, cardamom seed, clove, ginger, orange rind, juniper, iris flowers, mint, vanilla, and bay leaf. It usually also contains cane sugar. All these ingredients are steeped in grain alcohol or in grappa made from Barolo. So technically these are fortified wines, but should still have an alcohol level at the low end of the fortified range (i.e. 16-18%).


It is widely accepted that Barolo Chinato was invented by Dr. Giuseppe Cappellano in the late 19th Century. Giuseppe was the second son of the founder of the Cappellano Winery. He became a pharmacist in Turin and developed many medicines including Barolo Chinato. For more on this history of this winery and Dr. Cappellano, see the historical notes at the bottom of the Fine Wine Geek's Cappellano Barolo & Barbaresco page.

I have read that a man named Victor Zabaldano made Barolo Chinato, perhaps as far back as Cappellano. Unfortunately, his family line died out in 1989, taking their recipe to the grave. The Giulio Cocchi Spumanti Winery in Asti claims to have invented Barolo Chinato but I am not aware of anyone else who supports this claim. Still they may have independently developed their own recipe.

Through much of the 20th Century, Barolo Chinato was made by many wineries in small batches for family consumption and for gifts to close friends and good customers. Some was sold commercially, but it was rarely exported.

In 1980, when Barolo was upgraded from DOC status to DOCG status, the new regulations prohibited the making of Barolo Chinato in any winery where Barolo was made. This is due to the fact that making Barolo Chinato requires two ingredients prohibited in Barolo: sugar and grain alcohol.

Then in 2016, the rules were changed. It is now possible for a Barolo winery to give a quantity of Barolo to another company that has a facility and the permits for making Chinato. This permit is called a lavoro al conto-terzista in Italian. This subcontractor can then make the Barolo Chinato according to the winery's recipe. For example, Cantina Bartolo Mascarello is now made by Mauro Vergano in Asti, which is itself a major producer of Chinato and several other vini aromatizzati.

Here is some background from Levi Dalton. Here is another interesting article on Barolo Chinato by Pat Thomson.

Some Particularly Notable Producers

The Fine Wine Geek has individual Chinato pages for the following producers:

Other Producers

Barale's Barolo Chinato (from the Castellero vineyard):

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Serio & Battista Borgogno's
Barolo Chinato:

Barolo Chinato:

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Gancia's Antica Ricetta
Barolo Chinato:

Barolo Chinato:

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All original content © Ken Vastola