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Average critic rating : 96.75 points
Conterno’s 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino is a legend in the making, or now that it is in bottle, it may be more correct to simply say it is a legend. The late Giovanni Conterno and his son Roberto Conterno created quite a stir when they announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002, a year in which most of the harvest in Piedmont was severely compromised by a cold summer and devastating hail in early September. But there was more. The Conternos not only announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002 but no Barolo Cascina Francia for the first time ever in the estate’s history. In a bit of defiance towards the press, the Conternos then announced no one would be allowed to taste the wine from barrel. Over the years, this stance softened. Visitors lucky enough to visit the cellars and sample the wine from cask knew what was in store. Simply put, the 2002 Monfortino is stratospheric. A dark, imposing, but sensual wine, it flows from the glass with a breathtaking array of dried roses, autumn leaves, wild cherries, plums, new leather, espresso, licorice and spices, showing phenomenal depth, richness and balance. The tension between the luxuriousness of the fruit and the austerity of the vintage is truly captivating. I have tasted the 2002 Monfortino multiple times from barrel and bottle. At times it has reminded me of what I imagine the 1971 tasted like upon release, at other times it has seemed more similar to 1978. According to Giovanni Conterno, the 2002 reminded him of the 1971. Either way, the wine is extraordinary. The 2002 Monfortino is the result of the cold vintage that was typical of Piedmont up until the mid 1980s. In many ways, it is a throwback to wines that can’t be made anymore in Piedmont. Roberto Conterno thought so highly of the 2002 Monfortino he gave the wine an extra year in barrrel. And of course, there is one sad footnote. The world lost Giovanni Conterno to cancer in 2004, but he made sure his last Monfortino was at least equal, if not better, than his most monumental wines. There is little doubt the 2002 Monfortino will soon take its place as one of the greatest Monfortinos ever made. It is the most fitting last chapter to the life of one of the world’s greatest winemakers. As always, I suggest readers who have an interest in Monfortino taste the wine as soon as possible, as it will soon head into a period of dormancy, which in this vintage may last several decades. One of my favorite vintages for current drinking is the 1970, which still looks to have another 30 years of fine drinking ahead of it! Anticipated maturity: 2027-2052. ||Few properties are so closely linked with a single site as Giacomo Conterno. Since 1978 the Cascina Francia vineyard in Serralunga, a monopole holding, has been the source of all of the estate’s wines, including the Baroli Cascina Francia and Monfortino, rightly considered by most observers as among the most profound wines in the world. Needless to say, it was big news when proprietor Roberto Conterno purchased three hectares in Ceretta, also in Serralunga, in 2008. Would the new wines reflect the same house aesthetic as the wines from Cascina Francia, or would the terroir of Ceretta be the dominant factor? Could Ceretta yield wines of similar importance as those of Cascina Francia? After all, Cascina Francia was a cornfield with a few old vines from a past life when the Conternos purchased it in 1974. These were some of the questions Barolo lovers asked, and now, two years later some answers have begun to emerge. The first, and most obvious, is that the new wines are loaded with the Conterno house style. That said, they are works in progress. Roberto Conterno took over his parcels in Cerretta in mid-2008, after which he had the misfortune of suffering through several hailstorms. When I visited the new vineyards in the summer of 2008 Conterno told me he thought it would take two to three years for the vines to respond to his methods of viticulture. Clearly 2008 is not the optimal vintage by which to measure the ultimate potential of these wines, but there appears to be much to look forward to based on the 2009s I tasted from barrel recently. All of that said, the star among these new releases is without question the 2002 Monfortino, a wine that is destined to carve a place for itself as one of the greatest wines ever made. That it is the product of a vintage that was disastrous for nearly every other producer in Piedmont will only add to the shroud of mystique that has surrounded this wine since its birth. Wine Advocate.December, 2010
I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about the 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino, a wine that may very well turn into a modern-day legend. As readers may recall, 2002 was a cold, rainy year that in many parts of Barolo culminated with violent hailstorms in early September. The weather then turned picture-perfect for the rest of the growing season, but by that time most vineyards were severely damaged. The late-ripening Cascina Francia was an exception. Conterno green-harvested aggressively, which gave the fruit a chance to ripen. The late harvest produced massive, structured wines. Roberto Conterno and his father, the late Giovanni Conterno, thought 2002 was not a good vintage, bur rather a great vintage. The Conternos were so upset by the poor early press reaction to the vintage they announced they would let no one taste their 2002 Barolo, and then declared the unthinkable: they would only produce their Monfortino in 2002. As it turns out, the modern-day view of the conditions during 2002 failed to take into account that vintages were often cold and damp in the 1960s and 1970s. Conterno has fashioned an old-style, massive Monfortino that pays homage to the great wines of decades past. I have been following this wine for a some time. It is a deeply-colored, imposing Monfortino loaded with dense dark fruit that today is held in check by a massive wall of tannins. At times the wine has reminded me of the 1971 Monfortino, at other times it has appeared to be more similar to the 1978. Either way, it is classic, old-style Barolo the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again any time soon. Drink: 2022-2052
For any wine collector, Giacomo Conterno is a name that makes you sit up straight and pay attention. Widely acknowledged as the most majestic examples of traditional Barolo, these wines are some of the most thought provoking heavy-hitters known to the wine world. Power, massive structure, richness tempered with delicacy and the ability to age beautifully for 30+ years are just some of the reasons for Conterno’s world-class reputation.
A NEW DIRECTION
The winery, established in 1908, initially conformed to the way other producers in the region made Barolo; in cask or demijohn suitable for early consumption. In the 1920s Giacomo Conterno set his sights on making a higher quality Barolo that could age for decades. He started by extending maceration periods extensively and began aging his wines in large wooden botti. The shift in quality kept the winery afloat during difficult economic times and eventually led to the ability to purchase the Cascina Francia vineyard in the 1970s.
Cascina Francia is one of Piedmont’s greatest sites and the exclusive source of Conterno’s Baroli – Monfortino and Cascina Francia. The densely planted 14 hectare site boasts southwest exposure and sits 4,000 metres above sea level, offering ideal conditions for deep tannins and big, ripe acidity. This vineyard is the key in producing Conterno’s powerful, age-worthy style of Barolo.
BAROLO MONFORTINO RISERVA
In great vintages, Barolo Monfortino Riserva is made from a selection of the best fruit. It is vinified differently than Cascina Francia, first undergoing an uncontrolled fermentation at a high temperature, followed by an additional three years of maturation in cask. Antonio Galloni remarks “Baroli Cascina Francia and Monfortino... rightly considered by most observers as among the most profound wines in the world.”
Today, the winery is run by Roberto Conterno, who benefits from the wisdom and legacy of his late father, Giovanni, and grandfather, Giacomo. The winemaking is still rigorously traditional with long fermentations followed by periods of 7+ years in cask, practices reminiscent of other great Italian producers Gianfranco Soldera and Giuseppe Quintarelli. This powerful style of Barolo continues to shock and amaze those lucky enough to open them.
FINE & RARE
Made in tiny quantities of only around 1,000 cases per year, this is a hugely desirable and collectable wine with a rarity factor similar to Petrus in Bordeaux and Domaine Romanée Conti in Burgundy. Highly rated by Antonio Galloni, the vintages 2010, 2004, 1999, 1978 and 1970 are among some of the most sought after wines in the world.
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