Barolo Chinato – A Nectar for Winter

Barolo with Benefits

Barolo Chinato in Dorothy Thorpe

I am tempted to tell you to stop reading now and go out and buy this and taste for yourself. But I really want to share my thoughts with you. Maybe you could take a friend or a kid or a neighbor with you in the car, and your passenger could read this to you on the way to the liquor store. That would be a good idea.

Barolo Chinato Label



From Italy’s Piemonte region, the Foot of the Mountain, comes some of the world’s most magnificent food – truffles and spectacular mushrooms, to name but two, and the wines of The House of Cocchi. My regular readers will recall my articles about Cocchi Americano and Vermouth, two of their vini aromatizzati. But Cocchi has a third aromatized wine, Barolo Chinato (key-NOT-o.) Long favored as a treatment for lung ailments, flu, headaches and as a digestivo, the old folks know and love it. Barolo Chinato has warmed and soothed body and soul for well over a hundred years.


There is some dispute as to who invented Barolo Chinato with both Giuseppe Capellano and Giulio Cocchi claiming bragging rights. Giulio Cocchi invented his Barolo Chinato in 1891, and it soon became popular in Italy and Europe. The late 19th century had already seen much experimentation in the development of fortified wines and labels everywhere read “alcool, zucchero, china, infuso di erbe aromatiche, spezie.” The House of Cocchi is now owned by the Bava family and Barolo Chinato is still made according to Giulio Cocchi’s original secret recipe.


Barolo Chinato begins with DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) Barolo, the king of wines. What sets this apart from any other Barolo is an infusion of chinchona (China Calissaja bark – that’s the chinato part) along with herbs and spices. After almost a year’s maceration, it emerges garnet red from its casks, ready for consumption, a true vino aromatizzato, a revelation kissed with bitters. Whether you drink it at room temperature, warmed or with a chill on it, I can guarantee you will be seduced.


Now please, wine geeks, don’t get all over me about the add-ins to the Barolo. I hear you already. This is not like the time you poured your dad’s Chateau Lafite into the punch at the Frat house. Not even close. As intoxicating as the nose is, the drinking will educe more than you would think possible. This is a complex delectation, viscous, sweet and aromatic, filled with a rich warmth and the taste of orange peel, cherries and raisins, cardamom, rhubarb and gentian along with warming spices – cloves, star anise, ginger and cinnamon. But you do not taste this all at once – bitter and sweet alternate, and flavors, either one by one or in astonishing harmony, come to the fore and retreat making the wine seem almost alive. With a mildly bitter and lingering finish, Barolo Chinato is elegance in a bottle.


Barolo Chinato Chocolate


It is so richly satisfying it could be dessert by itself, but sip it alongside today’s ultra-dark chocolates, and new dimensions of flavor are revealed. I was positively stunned as I nibbled bittersweet chocolate – cinnamon came to the fore along with other warm and wintry spices I had never noticed before in the wine. In fact The House of Cocchi manufactures chocolate specifically created to be enjoyed with Barolo Chinato.

There is another side to Barolo Chinato. Gently heated and served with an orange twist, it is warming and comforting. With a few more additions it makes the most sumptuous mulled wine I have ever tasted. Pour 2 cups of Barolo chinato into a medium saucepan and add a slice or two of orange, a couple of whole cloves and allspice berries and a cinnamon stick. Warm the mixture very gently over a low flame or double boiler for about 15 or 20 minutes, tasting occasionally, to allow the flavors to marry.

Barolo Chinato Thorpe

Barolo Chinato fell from favor in the latter half of the 20th century. It is expensive to make, and other more assertively bitter liquors came into favor. But today it is growing in popularity. Imports are increasing, and today’s enterprising mixologists are making hay with drinks such as Darkside, Nice Legs, and Red Negroni.

Bring a bottle to your hosts this New Year’s Eve, and they will be forever grateful. Barolo Chinato keeps well, and is perfect for late night sipping. Add a selection of fine dark chocolates for a truly special gift.


The Mezzanotte

serves 1

The dark cherry notes of the Barolo Chinato marry beautifully with the chocolate, almond and cherry of the Nardini Mandorla grappa. Dark maraschino cherries finish off this most elegant cocktail. Served with dark chocolate, this could even be dessert.

Only Nardini Mandorla Grappa will do here. Its triumvirate of flavors is perfect with the Barolo Chinato. I call for Luxardo Maraschino cherries, dark marasca cherries in Maraschino liquor and sugar syrup. If you have none, you may substitute Amarone cherries in syrup, but do not use any neon American style maraschino cherries. That would just be wrong.

2 ounces Barolo ChinatoLuxardo Cherries-618x640-1147_651
1 ounce Nardini Mandorla

Luxardo Maraschino cherries for garnish

Combine Barolo Chinato and Mandorla in mixing glass half filled with ice. Stir thirty seconds and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with one or two Luxardo Maraschino cherries. Serve.

In California Barolo Chinato is available at K&L Wines and online at Alcohol by Volume: 16.5%

Food nerd note: About the appellation – Barolo wine is made from Nebbiolo grapes. Barolo Chinato is made with DOCG Barolo. However, once the wine has been aromatized, it can no longer be considered DOCG.

Note: You can click on any picture and see a slide show!

I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.

Barolo Chinato Bottle-181x640-3401_941

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  1. Comment by Paul:

    Hello ! I am just wondering if the Barolo Chianto will keep for long if left unopened or does it lose its taste if stored ?

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Paul,

      I store it in the fridge because I think it holds its spicy flavors better that way, although we usually zip right through a bottle! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Comment by Kate:

    Does this need to be stored in the refrigerator once opened or can I keep it in my pantry?

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Kate,

      Barolo Chinato is classified as an aromatized wine, and as such it should be stored in a very cool dark place like the fridge once opened. Ditto for your vermouth! I hope you enjoy your Barolo Chinato. This is the perfect time of year for it!

  3. Comment by Anna Savinv:

    What an amazing and in depth post on Barolo Chinato! I love the warming idea with some orange slices. The other fascinating thing about Chinato is that each producer has their own secret recipe so one can really differ from the other according to the spices.

    Thanks for your appreciation for our Piemontese drink!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Anna,

      I am so glad you enjoyed this. I certainly enjoyed the article on your site at italiAnna. So few people write about this wonderful libation, I thought I’d share mine with you. And, of course, I enjoyed the Barolo Chinato. It is just wonderful, and Fall and Winter is the time for it. I agree with you about the different recipes, all secret and proprietary. The array does gives us a wide selection. Cheers – alla prossima!

  4. Comment by simona:

    happy new year Adri! wonderful photos , delicious barolo;)

  5. Comment by artù:

    Grazie per la visita al mio blog. con piacere sono passata ed ho trovato un bellissimo articolo dedicato alla mia regione! grazie che bello!!!

    ps. come faccio ad iscrivermi al tuo blog?

    • Comment by Adri:


      E grazie per questa visita. Per iscrevermi clicca sul “Subscribe – Click HERE to subscribe…” nel colonna di destra. (Scusi, ma io non parla perfettamente Italiano. Ho studiato a l’universita molti anni fa!)

  6. Comment by Frank @Memorie di Angelina:

    I would love to try this. But can you find in Stateside?

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Frank,

      Yes, it is available in the U.S. I purchased it at K&L Wines in Hollywood; available online at their site. Also DrinkUpNy in Brooklyn has it. Call around your neighborhood wine purveyors. It is pretty easy to get these days.

      I would love to hear from you once you taste it. You will be amazed, I bet. Happy New Year!

  7. Comment by Steve Stumpf:

    Adri – fabuloso article! You have convinced me to try this next chance I get. Hopefully next to your kitchen! You suggested it keeps well. How long after I open it can I expect it to keep well?

    • Comment by Adri:


      I am so glad you enjoyed reading this one – consider the reading a mere prelude to the drinking. This will keep for weeks, if not months. The deal is, however, you will drink it long before it goes off. Cheers!

  8. Comment by Paola:

    A wonderful post on Barolo Chinato, very complete and interesting! There are so many tips how to serve and use Barolo Chinato!!! Actually I use this delicious wine for my delicious chocolate cake al barolo chinato. Brava Adri.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Paola,

      Chocolate Cake al barolo chinato! What could be better? I am utterly intrigued. No doubt it is a special occasion cake-I look forward to a post!

  9. Comment by LA_Foodie:

    This looks great… Never heard of it. I’ll have to try this!

  10. Comment by speedy70:

    splendida presentazione, un abbraccio e buon anno!!!!!

  11. Comment by Pat@MilleFioriFavoriti:

    I am familiar with quite a few Italian “digestivo” but this is a new one to me, it sounds delicious! I will definitely look for it to enjoy tasting it.

    Thanks for your visit to my blog, and your kind comments.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Benvenuta Pat!

      I adore digestivi. I’ve written about lots of them – everything from Amaro Mmontnegro to Zucca with stops at Fernet Branca and others, but Barolo Chinato is in a class by itself. I’d love to hear from you once you taste it.

      Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope you return often. Buon anno!

  12. Comment by Sippitysup:

    Cocchi makes so many old cocktails live again. even the James Bond Vesper. GREG

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Greg,

      No kidding – The House of Cocchi rocks. Fans of the Vesper and Lillet can rejoice now that Cocchi Americano is here. I only wish more of their products would come to America.

      I really hope you give Barolo Chinato a try. To say it is a revelation may sound hackneyed, but it is the truth.

      Buon anno to you and yours!

  13. Comment by Ciao Chow Linda:

    Well here you go again, introducing me to another new drink. And to think I was recently in Barolo country and didn’t know about this. If it weren’t nearly 11:30 p.m., I’d run to the store to get some of this. And those cherries – well, I have got to find them too. Amarena cherries are a real treat for me, so I know I’d love those Luxardo cherries too. Your food styling and photos are magazine quality – just beautiful.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao e buon anno!

      Well, I can’t believe I did not mention it! You really were right there in the heart of Barolo country. Honestly, this post was so difficult to write. I just had a heck of a time putting into words what this is like. You will be astounded. You will want more. I can’t wait to hear what you think. There are other makers, but I have only tasted Cocchi, so I’d say stick with that one because it was so very remarkable. In some cities out here it can be hard to find, but I bet in the East it will be more readily available. Cheers!

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