Every visit with Augusto Cappellano in Serralunga d’Alba reaffirms our faith in the wisdom of the old ways, and it needn’t be said that the scant quantities of Barolo and Barbera issued forth from his modest cellar are among the most spellbinding wines in Piedmont—highly coveted and allocated down to the last bottle.
Fewer people are aware that it was his ancestor Giuseppe, a doctor by trade, who invented the incredible elixir known as Barolo Chinato toward the end of the 19th century—originally as an herb-laden liquid with notable medicinal benefits beyond its amazing flavors. The recipe remains unchanged to this day: a mix of Barolo wine from a single vintage (our current release’s base is 2017) with a decoction of several dozen spices and herbs, the details of which are top-secret and known only to Augusto.
When Cappellano’s Chinato took off decades ago, Augusto’s predecessors used fake names and many different source shops so that the ingredient list would remain unknowable; Augusto to this day uses the same enormous mortar and pestle used by Giuseppe to crush the spices, and consults the very sheet of written instructions Giuseppe drafted in the late 1800s.
Those who have tasted great Chinato know of its shocking complexity, and there are simply none better than Cappellano’s. Trying to pick out ingredients is a fun game, and you can always catch a few: cardamom, cinnamon, chocolate? (You’d swear there’s chocolate, but you’ll never know for sure…) But the fun is in the mystery. It drinks beautifully on its own at room temp, or on ice, or as the base of an unforgettable cocktail, and a bottle stays good once opened for a very long time. Cappellano’s sports a gorgeous label as well, produced in an antique fashion with real gold leaf, and each bottle is packed in its own elegant box.
More on Cappellano here.