2002 Barolo Monfortino Riserva Giacomo Conterno

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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

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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