You’re in the best hands on this thread with the likes of @Tannatastic, @strawpig, @Olivercg and @Bluebeard who are the Piedmont experts on this Community.
The elephant in the room on your original question is that to my mind, “understanding” Barolo requires you to drink a mature Barolo. It is with maturity that the true magic of Nebbiolo grown in this unique terroir reveals itself. Those heady scents of tar, roses, truffle, cigar embers, and gauzy, mulchy walks in dank woodland only come with age. If you drink Barolo too young, you may not quite see what the fuss is about as you will be assailed by a wall of tannin and acidity. That is not to say there is no pleasure to be had from enjoying the lifted red fruits and silk-coat tannins of young Barolo, but it is a different experience…
With particular respect to my friends across the Atlantic, the definition of “mature” is very subjective, but in foggy hills of the Langhe I would say it needs to be at least 15 years old. As others have pointed out, finding mature Barolo to purchase by the bottle is not easy. Barolo is not the most popular wine in the market, but it does have a hugely loyal following amongst its die-hard fans and so most Barolo is snapped up by the case and squirrelled away in cellars to be forgotten about for decades, never to be seen again for purchase.
I agree with all the excellent suggestions on this thread to try to nail down some sort of idea of what you like, particularly:
- Barolo vs Barbaresco - the latter is often open for business earlier
- Lighter, “red fruit” styles (La Morra/Verduno) vs more full bodied, “darker fruit” styles (Serralunga vs Monforte d’Alba)
- Traditionalist v Modernist (i.e. how much sweet vanilla oak do you like to taste?)
In terms of a Barolo to try now that is readily available, I would echo @Bluebeard’s recommendation for the Rocche Costamagna, “Rocche dell’Annunziata” 2012 - this is ready to go and is super lifted, fragrant and perfumed with red cherries, mint, orange rind and some gentle spice. This should give you an idea of the ethereal fragrance of Barolo combined with the level of tannin. I tasted the 2012s from Rocche Costamagana in 2019 and they were already open for business.
Now the expensive bit, I’m afraid. Lay & Wheeler have mature Barolo by the bottle, and I would look to 2004 for something that’s available and that will also drink well now, such as:
2004 Barolo Bricco Viole, Mario Marengo, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler
2004 Barolo La Serra, Gianni Voerzio, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler
2004 Barolo Monvigliero Riserva, Castello di Verduno, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler
2004 Barolo Arione, Enzo Boglietti, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler
As always, give them a good decant, and serve them in glasses with plenty of space for swirling. Welcome to the Nebbiolo Addict Club.