Prior to the mid 19th century, Barolo was a sweet wine. The fact that the Nebbiolo grape ripens late in October meant that temperatures would be steadily dropping by harvest. By November and December, temperatures in the Piedmont region would be cold enough to halt fermentation, leaving a significant amount of residual sugar left in the wine. In the mid 19th century, Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, the mayor of Grinzane Cavour invited the French enologist Louis Oudart to the Barolo region to improve the winemaking techniques of the local producers. Using techniques focusing on improving the hygiene of the cellar, Oudart was able to ferment the Nebbiolo must completely dry, making the first modern Barolo. This new, "dry" red wine soon became a favorite among the nobility of Turin and the ruling House of Savoy, giving rise to the popular description of Barolo as '"the wine of kings, the king of wines".
By the mid 20th century, wine production in the Barolo zone was dominated by large negociants who purchased grapes and wines from across the zone and blended it into a house style. In the 1960s, individual proprietors began estate bottling and producing single vineyard wines from their holdings. By the 1980s, a wide range of single vineyard bottlings were available, which led to a discussion among the region's producers about the prospect of developing a classification for the area's vineyards. The cataloging of Barolo's vineyards has a long history dating back to the work of Lorenzo Fantini in the late 19th century to Renato Ratti and Luigi Veronelli in the late 20th century, but as of 2009 there is still no official classification within the region. However, in 1980 the region as a whole was elevated to DOCG status. Along with Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo was one of the first Italian wine regions to attain this designation.
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