From my Monforte hotel it was an easy walk to the Conterno cellars...
Producer profile: Giacomo Conterno
Giovanni Conterno (eldest son of founder Giacomo) was an arch-traditionalist and had split in 1969 with his brother Aldo, who favoured shorter cask-ageing.
The truth is that they were both outstanding winemakers. Giovanni’s most famous wine was Monfortino, made only in top years by setting aside one vat and ageing it for seven years or more in casks.
Although a gleam came into his eye when he spoke of ‘tradizione’, Giovanni was never opposed to modern technology, and welcomed temperature control as he could prolong the maceration but at moderate temperatures.
At their best, the Conterno wines were magnificent and long-lived, but there could be disappointments, especially among older, more fragile vintages.
And although I hugely admired his Barolo and the Monfortino, the wines I actually bought and drank were the majestic Dolcetto (last vintage 2000) and Barbera d’Alba. Traditional to the core, but suffused in sumptuous fruit.
After Giovanni died in 2004, his son Roberto maintained his father’s stylistic signature. He is not opposed to barriqueageing as such, but doesn’t want to add an element that’s external to the vineyard.
‘I would rather hear someone say “I don’t like this wine but I recognise it”, than that they like the wine but have no idea what it is.’
Wines to try from Giacomo Conterno
Giacomo Conterno, Barolo 2004
Warm spicy nose, with aromas of cherries and raspberries. Medium-bodied, the pronounced acidity highlighting the red-fruit character. Concentrated, quite tannic but not tough, with excellent balance and freshness. It’s discreet and understated, but has tremendous underlying elegance. Long. (93/100pts)
Buy: UK £266.50 (magnum) Upper Case // US $235 Cana Wine Company
Giacomo Conterno, Barbera d’Alba 2009
Sweet, intense, plummy nose. The attack is bright and zesty, with flavours of plums and red fruits. Vivacious, and the high alcohol is not evident. Voluptuous but not heavy, and has admirable length. (92/100pts)
Buy: UK £74.50 (1.5l) Chelsea Vintners