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Conterno’s Monfortino is a heavyweight contender for the best Barolo around, and it definitely has our vote. It’s a matchless experience of power paired with subtlety and the effect is quite seductive. As it opens, you’ll experience classic hints of rose, earthy black truffles, cigar box, and anise in a boldly structured wine that’s still quite fresh.
Antonio Galloni of Vinous said it’s a “magnificent” wine that “explodes from the glass with a luxurious, expansive personality that leaves me speechless.” The lucky people who share this bottle with you likely will never forget it.
Monfortino is the very first Barolo made in what has come to be known as the classic style. Earlier Barolos were generally sold in either cask or demijohn, and meant for early drinking. Giacomo decided to create a Barolo with great aging potential. His first wine wine was a 120 Barolo Riserva, and he soon adopted the name Monfortino in honor of his home village Montorte d'Alba.
In 1959 Giovanni Conterno began making the wine at his family domaine, taking over from his father Giacomo. The legendary Barolos he made in 1964, 1971, 1978, 1985 and 1990 have left their mark in Italian wine history.
This was an outstanding year, although it didn’t seem so at the outset. Spring and early summer were damp and cool, but autumn was warm and dry, bringing the grapes to full ripeness. Yields were fairly small, and tannin levels high, so that Barolo in particular benefited from long ageing in bottle.
Cascina Francia, the source of all the grapes for Monfortino, lies at up to 450 metres in the village of Serralunga along the border with Monforte, and opposite the celebrated Ginestra vineyard in the latter. The soils are calcareous and the vines face southwest; they are planted to a density of around 4,000 per hectare.
Monfortino is not a selection of the best barrels, but a parcel selection made shortly before harvest. The best parcels can vary from year to year. Only when their quality is significantly superior to the rest of Cascina Francia is the selection vinified separately, in open-top vats. There is no temperature control, thus running the risk of a stuck fermentation, and the maceration period is long, at up to five weeks. Monfortino is then aged in large casks of 2,000 to 7,500 litres.
When the regular Barolo has aged in cask for a year or two, the final decision is taken on whether to blend the Monfortino selection with the regular wine, or whether to designate it as Monfortino. If the decision is to produce Monfortino, it is aged for at least seven years, compared to four for the regular Barolo. Only a wine of great natural concentration and structure can withstand the potential drying effect of such long ageing in wood. The wine is bottled without fining or filtration. Between 7,000 and 10,000 bottles are produced.