2012 Barbera d'Alba Cascina Francia Giacomo Conterno

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Average critic rating : 94.0 points



The 2012 Barbera d'Alba Francia is a stunning wine that shows precision, poise and focus. The aromas are fully developed and harmonious with dark berry, blackcurrant, spice and sweet tobacco. The single-vineyard Francia is especially impressive in the mouth thanks to its generous and fleshy texture and the great intensity and persistence of the finish. Barbera is celebrated, or sometimes criticized, for its high acidity. That freshness is expertly managed and tamed in this standout wine. The 2012 vintage was especially kind to Barbera.

I was very disappointed not to be able to taste from barrel this year at Roberto Conterno's historic estate in Monforte d'Alba. Due to construction work at the winery, Roberto was not receiving visitors during my two-week residency in the area. I was however very excited to review the excellent 2012 Barbera d'Alba Francia and the 2009 Barolo Cascina Francia (that I had previously tasted in barrel). He did not produce his Barolo Riserva Monfortino in 2009. The big news from the estate this year is Roberto's purchase of the 9-hectare Arione cru from neighbor Gigi Rosso in Serralunga d'Alba. The acquisition was ripe with controversy stemming from irresponsible reporting in local Italian media that suggested both buyer and seller were motivated by anti-American sentiment. A U.S. based retail group had originally made a bid for the property before Roberto successfully nabbed it. Historically speaking, vineyard land in the Langhe has overwhelmingly stayed in Piedmontese hands unlike Tuscany that sees a great number of foreign investors from around the world. Those unfounded conspiracy theories went up in smoke when Roberto Conterno revealed that he had simply followed Italian legal protocol that allows him (a direct neighbor as owner of the adjacent Francia cru) the right of first refusal. But the acquisition remains controversial for a second, more significant reason. Roberto paid an enormous sum for the celebrated cru (I was told that figure reached 7 million euros) thus raising the collective psychological bar on property prices in the Langhe. Many fear that a buying and selling frenzy with sky-high prices is on the horizon. Giacomo Conterno will reportedly begin to produce a Barolo Arione with the 2015 vintage and Gigi Rosso will release his last Barolo Arione in 2014. Jun 2015, www.robertparker.com, Drink: 2015-2026

Giacomo Conterno: The Importance

 Arguably the most highly regarded producer in all of Piedmont, if not Italy, Parker described the estate of Giacomo Conterno as “one of the bastions of traditionally made Barolos. While Conterno’s wines have often been profound, in recent vintages the estate has found another level of finesse…


Celebrated by critics such as Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni, the estate of Giacomo Conterno has often received perfect scores, especially for its Barolo Monfortino Riserva. The consistency of the praise heaped upon this estate reflects how seamlessly this producer has passed the reigns from generation to generation, with each incarnation of the domaine coupling fresh ideas with the expertise and wisdom of their forefathers to create a wine which never stagnates, while staying true to values of tradition and history.


This estate is credited for having created what we now understand by “traditional” Barolo, that is, a wine that is deep, powerful, and rich, structured and capable of long periods of ageing.



Giacomo Conterno: The Insight

 Of the 100 point rated 2010 Barolo Monfortino Riserva, Antonio Galloni writes that this wine is “utterly compelling…nuanced and vivid on the palate, the 2010 Monfortino possesses remarkable finesse and power. Classic Monfortino notes of dried rose petal, leather, licorice and incense develop beautifully in the glass as the wine literally takes hold of all the senses…. A vivid, thrilling wine, the 2010 will soon take its place among the greatest Monfortinos ever made.” The quality of the wine produced at this estate is so consistently high, especially of the Monfortinos, that Galloni writes that “Readers will have much fun debating which is the greatest Monfortino of recent years. Could it be the 1996, 1999 or 2002 for their huge structure and classicism? Or, is it the 1997 for its opulence? What if the dark horse 1998 and 2000 steal the show? Personally, I adore the 2001 and 2004 for their completeness, but the 2004 is the sexiest of them all.”


Some of the best vintages at this estate have been 1978, 1990, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010.


The Barolo Riserva Monfortino, first bottled in 1920, is only made in exceptional vintages. The exception being 2002, when only the Riserva was produced; this was the result of an extremely difficult vintage with large amounts of rain and hail, which meant that only a small amount of grapes were harvested, however these few grapes were of sufficient quality to produce the Riserva. Unlike a lot of Riservas, where the wine is chosen from the best barrels, the selection for the Monfortino is made at harvest with the best grapes from the best parcels of the Cascina Francia vineyard, that are then vinified and aged separately.


The estate also produces a highly rated Barbera D’Alba. Of the 2007, Antonio Galloni writes that it “flows onto the palate with waves of dark red fruit, sweet roses, licorice, flowers, menthol and tar, showing a remarkable combination of ripeness, clarity and detail. Medium in body, the wine offers tons of length and a refined, polished finish.”



Giacomo Conterno: The Background

 The history of this estate began in 1908 when Giovanni Conterno opened a small establishment serving wine in the town of San Giuseppe. Giovanni bought grapes from different farmers in the region and made Barolo to serve to his customers. When his son Giacomo returned from the war in 1915, he brought with him some new ideas and began experimenting with the creation of wine which could be aged for a long time, as opposed to early-drinking, soft fruity wines. It was Giacomo who began experimenting with the style now so closely associated with this estate, of powerful, rich Barolos with excellent potential for ageing. Giacomo also became a pioneering force in the region for producing, bottling and exporting high quality wine long before this became common practice in the region of Piemonte.


Until 1974, the wine produced at this estate was always made from purchased grapes, however this changed in 1974 when Giovanni Conterno decided to purchase the 40 acre Cascina Francia vineyard, and since then, the estate produces wines from their own grapes. In 2009, the estate purchased the 7.4 acre Cerretta vineyard planted to Nebbiolo and Barbera with the Nebbiolo classified as Langhe Nebbiolo.


Giacomo was then joined in the business by his two sons, Giovanni and Aldo, however, their differing ideas about how Barolo should be produced meant that Aldo split off from his family to start his own winery, which represents a more modern style of winemaking.


The estate is now run by Giacomo’s grandson Roberto, who continues to drive this estate from strength to strength.

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