Barolo Chinato: A Digestif Elixir

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Photo: Rinascimento Wine Company

Back in the 1800’s pharmacists of the day were much in tune with natural and therapeutic effforts to resolve ailments such as the flu, common cold, and headaches. Other efforts focused on making preparations that aided in the process of digestion. One preparation of note is the classic Barolo Chinato (key-knot-o) that served as a digestif in the 1800’s during royal banquets at the royal house of Savoy.

In 1891 a pharmacist of the Piedmontese town Serralunga d’Alba named Giuseppe Cappellano fused his appreciation of Barolo with his passion for pharmaceutical compounding and produced what is widely considered one of the finest digestifs on the market. Production time commonly transpires over a period of 5 years. For the duration of the first year Barolo wine is aged in oak untouched, allowing for the integration of imparted flavors from the barrel. In the years following, herbs and spices such as wormwood, cinnamon, and clove are slowly allowed to coalesce along with cane sugar that is added to provided a touch of sweetness. Not to be excluded from the preparation is quinine bark which translates to “china” in Italian and represents the etymological root of the beverage.

The exact timing of this addition along with up to 24 other botanical ingredients varies among those who produce Chinato, but the commonality among all is that the recipe each follows has been protected for over a hundred years. The aura of its mystery combined with its remarkable versatility make it one of the world’s most sought out treasures.  Chinato can be served as an outstanding digestif as well as an aperitif and even as an exceptional alternative to Port for pairing with chocolate.

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