Barolo, like all great wines, “appeals to both the head and to the heart,” said Eric Asimov in The New York Times. Although not inexpensive, the Italian red is undeniably “a great wine,” and sometimes even “profound.” The 1980s and 1990s were golden years for Barolo vintages, but the 2002 and 2003 vintages were devastated by hail, heat, and drought. Now with the 2004 vintage, “the thrill is back.” A Times panel recently sampled 25 Barolos, and these were our top three choices.

Massolino Barolo Vigna Margheria 2004 ($90) Barolo is traditionally a blend, but this single-vineyard wine is “rich, full, and deep,” with beautiful aromas of violets and cherries.

Luigi Einaudi Barolo Costa Grimaldi 2004 ($80) Ready to drink now, and will reward those with the patience to keep it for a few years. A dense wine with a hint of licorice.

Brovia Barolo 2004 ($50) “Best value.” “Classic aromas of cherries, tar, earth, and minerals.”