With Roberto Conterno coming to London next week and the new releases about to be offered I felt I must get this blog posted. The visit took place back in mid May.
There is no estate that I visit to taste more often than Cantina Giacomo Conterno in Monforte d’Alba. It is a place I get very excited about every single time. The wines are wonderful and I always learn a lot. I am biased of course but I think it is the same for almost anyone who visits, My trips there from the following years are documented here 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015). If you search “Conterno” on here you get rather a lot of results!
The tasting was, as is usual, of the wines about to hit the market:
Barbera Francia 2014 – Full crimson colour to the edge, deep at the core. Rich and full dark cherry nose with stones, minerality and a saline edge that is not quite as marked as usual for Francia, very good nose, all round balance. The tannins are delicious and moreish this is a brooding wine but not a heavy one, the fruit lifts on the finish to an almost cranberry freshness. I wonder how Roberto does this every year. 17.5+
Barbera Cerretta 2014 – Half a shade lighter in colour than the Francia but essentially very similar. The nose if more lifted, more obviously fruity, more opulent may be. The fruit character is redder, strawberry and raspberry but actually deeper than either of those fruits suggest. The palate has a tang to it, moreish tannins. This, as usual, has more approachability and lift than the more serious Francia. 17.5
Before moving on to the 2012 Barolos, Roberto thought it would be useful to taste the Barolo Francia 2009 as he sees similarities with the 2012’s.
Barolo Francia 2009 – Colour is lightening more than evolving, a lovely hue. There is a touch of red strawberry fruit then more floral notes before a little iodine and some good, ripe grip. Drinking well but obviously no rush at all.
Barolo Francia 2012 – There will be no Monfortino from the 2012 vintage (as was the case in 2007, 2009 & 2011) so the botti that would have been Monfortino (there is a section about Monfortino at the very bottom of this post) has been blended into the Francia (this happened back in January). Lovely bright and complex colour. Ever so slightly muted just now but a lovely red fruited sweetness comes through behind, very fine. Tobacco leaf and tea then appear, a little leather also. The palate is then more fruited again but with good, proper tannins, mellow but persistent. The overriding impression is of a wine in balance with gentle fruit and a lovely complexity of silky tannins. 18-18.5+
Barolo Cerretta 2012 – Paler in colour but only just, more obviously fruited and lifted, strawberry leaf. This is a wine more easily understood by the uninitiated Neb-head (as us Nebbiolo fiends are sometimes know). The texture is deeper the fruit is more pronounced and therefore the tannins less obvious. There is a real freshness and a certain rich elegance. It’s quite a wine, a perfect foil to the classicism of the Francia. 18+
We then moved on two taste two more wines.
Monfortino Barolo Riserva 2010 – this is a possibly the most eagerly awaited Italian wine release of all time. I have now tasted it three or four times with equally profound results. There is impeccable balance incredible poise and an almost effortless weight to the wine…Very exciting and now in bottle.
Barolo from Cascina Francia vineyard 2013 – With the final decision on this wine not yet made it was great to taste the 2013 Francia or to give it it’s correct name, Nebbiolo di Barolo Francia. It was a vibrant and expansive nose, rich, opulent and bold. There is iron and a grainy saline elegance to the texture…quite something.
It is always a special cellar in which to taste…
Each year in the evening before or after tasting we have a dinner with Roberto and his assistant Stephanie. We usually go to one of the lovely local restaurants – which were the inspiration for most of the meals we had during this epic trip – “Foxes behind ears”. This year though was different as we ate a wonderful meal at the Cantina with Roberto, family and friends. A real honour.
Standing in the kitchen while Meyumi prepared the dinner and gave us amazing pizza and cured meats we started with Gaston Chicquet 2007. Not a wine I know but the Italians love Champagne. This was bright, clean and nicely focused, a dash of yeastiness, worth seeking out. Then a wine I know rather well – Salon 1995 – this is really in the zone now from bottle, toasty, refined with lemon shortbread and mellow fruits, just lovely. For white we went to a bottle we had sent ahead – Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres 2009, Domaine Leflaive – a little reduction but essentially a generously fruited Puligny which is true to the vintage without being too much.
Now time for the reds, all of which Roberto decanted delicately just before serving. First up – Barbera d’Alba 2001 – I have tasted this before but never drunk it. Barbera at this age is interesting. A tiny bit of iron and iodine, stones, savoury blacker fruit and richness but not heaviness. Now a wine I have been lucky enough to have had a few times – Barolo Cascina Francia 1990 – soy, ginger, bacon fat and a little creosote, delicious. Sweet decay with some good volatile life. There is a sense of teriyaki flavours and a little Bual Madeira. Decadent and lovely. It sounds silly to say that this has a real “1990” feel but it does, so many 1990s are generous and decadent, this is just that.
Monfortino Barolo Riserva 1985 – a wine I think I have only had once and then from magnum at this tasting – Monfortino magnum Monday 1970-2006. Tiny bit of orange to the rim here, this is a mature wine but has a lovely sweet decay about it, a wine with tea character and super poise.
It had been quite a night. Having had a massive meal of wonderful dishes and so much great conversation we headed back to our lodgings, the unique Le Case della Saracca – if you find yourself in Monforte you must stop by, great rooms and a terrific bar where we had one last drink Barolo Chinato, Dr Giulio Perin (who owns the Saracca) made with Nebbiolo from Conterno Fantino. I am a big fan of Chinato!!
At the bottom of this post I have put three exerts from a recent offer I wrote, they might be of interest.
A word on corks
Monfortino – What is it? What is next?
The previous releases – When, how and what to drink now?
On getting back to London the following evening I then had a dinner at Kitchen W8 with a customer and friend. Kitchen W8 I think is as good a place to go as anywhere to enjoy food and wine, they have a great attitude to corkage as well as a good list. They will easily tweak things for you, we had three bottles and wanted two starters and two mains, they adjusted portions a bit (not too much thank fully) and it was a very enjoyable evening.
Salon 1983 – This is fully mature and deliciousness, a little orange rind and zestiness with a hint of mellow ginger too.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkap 2003 – I love this wine and would never have it as a 2003 served blind. There is warm vintage richness but nothing that doesn’t suggest it is refined and will age very well.
Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2005, Rousseau – I am very lucky in so much as I get a fair bit of exposure to the wines of Rousseau but Clos de la Roche I know less well. This is quite brooding but not a waste to have this early, quite rich it got better and better with air. The fruit is a little darker than the CSJ would be.
A cracking evening!
EXERTS form a , soon to be released, Conterno offer as mentioned above.