The tiny Cappellano estate in Serralunga d’Alba is beloved worldwide for its steadfastly traditional, charming, and profound Barolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. But did you know the family invented the sublime elixir known as Barolo Chinato? That’s right: Dr. Giuseppe Cappellano, a pharmacist by trade, developed this uncanny mixture of vintage Barolo with herbs and spices steeped in alcohol back in the late 1800s—literally as a digestive aid and stomach-settling concoction.
The still-top-secret, jealously guarded recipe was passed down from Giuseppe to his son Francesco, then to his son, the iconoclastic and revered Teobaldo, and then to the current generation, the warm, intelligent, and gentle Augusto (pictured left). And the recipe has remained unchanged since the earliest days, transferred ceremoniously via handwritten letter during each generational shift. Augusto still crushes the herbs and spices by hand with the family’s ancient cast-iron mortar and pestle, and the steps to creating the perfect mixture are complex and difficult (as well as being equally secretive)—Augusto told us it took him years, beginning as a young child, to master the technique.
Happily, the results of this arcane process are nothing short of sublime. Cappellano’s Chinato blitzes the senses with a goosebumps-inducing kaleidoscope of aromas and sensations—the nose of the stuff alone is worth the price of admission. And it’s so much fun to play “guess the ingredients”—especially when you know you’ll never really know for sure! “Is that cardamom? Clove? There has to be wormwood in here, right? Did someone actually melt the world’s greatest bittersweet chocolate directly into the bottle?! Am I crazy for getting chamomile?”
On the palate, the Chinato’s marked sweetness is buffered by its sheer depth and complexity—after all, 50% of the stuff is traditionally vinified and aged single-vintage Barolo from a great vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba. A heady melange of herbs and spices, coupled with the elixir’s rich, chocolatey depths, pull both mouth and mind in infinite directions, but the whole experience is still balanced, composed, and just flat-out absurdly delicious. Moreover, the current bottling we have on hand in the Rosenthal Wine Merchant warehouse is based on the 2010 vintage, one of the greatest Barolo vintages in modern history. An opened bottle last for many months, and it can even age indefinitely—as a bottle from the 1950s Augusto opened for us enthusiastically attested!
This is the perfect season for Barolo Chinato, and in addition to capturing the festive spirit of the holidays (and helping us digest all of those celebratory feasts!), it makes for an incredible gift. Each bottle is individually boxed, and includes an elegant and informative booklet about the history of the Cappellano estate and the story of its Chinato. Furthermore, the gorgeous label is still painstakingly produced using traditional intaglio methods, whereby actual gold leaf is applied to the label in a complex process of adhesion. (In fact, if you rub a Cappellano Chinato label hard enough, you’ll get gold on your fingers!)
We conveniently stock two sizes of Cappellano Chinato: 500ml and 750ml. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience and share one of the world’s most singular and delicious liquids.