‘Conterno’ is a surname that’s synonymous with Monforte d’Alba, & coincidentally quite a few of them are Barolo producers!
This Conterno family is related to that of Conterno-Fantino through father Diego – but unrelated when it comes to wine style! – & their new winery is ironically located just up the slope from Giacomo Conterno, of no relation. Diego, a graduate of the Umberto 1 Enological School, is well-grounded in making traditional Barolo, having worked under Beppe Colla at Prunotto. In 2000 Diego decided to sell his share of Conterno-Fantino, take his vines including the plum Ginestra plot, & started afresh.
While 2003 was their first vintage as ‘Diego Conterno’, producing all of 1300 bts of Barolo (Ginestra), the family’s history dates back to the post WWII Baroli of ancestors Lorenzo & Attilio Conterno. 2005 witnessed 100% of the estate fruit being bottled. Father & son tend the vines & make the wines; Stefano joining in 2010 – the first year their Sori Ginestra was bottled separately! Aided by a new wing to their winery in 2014, allowing them a bit more space, Diego & Stefano are making classic Monforte Barolo: static fermenters (not rotos), cement & the use of increasingly large botte grande (another two due late 2016), to give broad, brambly & minerally pure Baroli. But perhaps the winery’s greatest surprise, apart from the profondita of their Barolo Ginestra, is the pineapply Langhe Nascetta, grown on grey marl soils – rich & minerally!
Diego, his wife Anna & ‘children’ Stefano (27 & a surveyor by training) & Lorenza (now a nurse), have 7.5ha of vineyards located in the village; 2ha of which are in the ‘Grand Cru’ vineyard of Ginestra, the ‘Sori’ (full south) heart of which faces plum south at right angles to the sun & was planted in 1982. The remaining 5.5ha are split between Nebbiolo for Barolo vineyards of San Pietro, Pajana & Gris (grey in dialect on account of its fine grey marl soil); they also have Nebbiolo (d’Alba), Barbera, Dolcetto & Nascetta planted in the full west facing Ferrione vineyard below the winery itself. From vintage 2018, the family has begun renting a small parcel of Monforte Le Coste!
Since 2010 all the vineyards have been converted to organic, & certified in 2014.
Barolo del comune di Monforte d’Alba
Barolo Le Coste (from vintage 2018)
2019 Langhe Nascetta – tasted by CR & DBG on 17Jan’20, 13%, total sulphur 80mg/litro. A markedly different vintage, being later & more concentrated, the Conterno family chose to macerate the fruit for 25% less time than in 2018, from 24 hrs to 18. The result is a stunning lime sherbet (Dip-Dab!) wine, brimming with space dust & grapefruit skin flavours; the exotic fruit in time with the grey marne Monforte soils, as the Ferrione vineyard lies right below their cantina, facing west, gazing at the snow-capped Alps. Sealed with a DIAM5, the wine is alive with gorgeous pulpy citrus/cedro fruit…that recalls a Carricante from Mte Etna, for example! Fluid & joyful!
2019 Dolcetto d’Alba – none produced as obliterated by hail, alas!
2018 Barbera d’Alba – as tasted by DBG & CR on Friday 17th January 2020 14%, 11k bts, from two Monforte plots, Bricco Monguigliemo & Ferrione, this year Diego & Stefano chose to dispense with the cement & vinify the wine entirely in stainless-steel, & so keep the clarity & crunch! Indeed, it’s sumptuous & fleshy with telltale 2018 juicy blueberry/ribena fruit that’s very generous & explosive in character; sealed with DIAM5 for extra freshness! Their best to date?
2018 Langhe Nebbiolo ‘Baluma’ – as tasted by DBG & CR on Friday 17th January 2020 14%, 14k bts, bottled Sept’19, the Conterno family switch from Nebbiolo d’Alba to Langhe Nebbiolo, changing the bottle (Albeisa) & closure (DIAM5) in the process! 100% Nebbiolo from their single ‘Ferrione’ plot below the cantina, high up & facing West towards the Alps, this new wine seems crunchier & more energetic than previous incarnations (‘Baluma’ means ‘let’s dance’ in Piedmontese!); Stefano confirmed a short 8/10 days maceration, and 4/5 months in botte, followed by less time than usual in cement tank before bottling. Bright in colour, favoloso on the nose, with clearly defined, moreish, ribena-ish red/back currant/ribes notes; the palate is gioioso, juicy/succoso, with such pretty, immediate appeal, reflecting the sumptuous but crunchy vintage 2018! A definite step up from 2017, in ‘all departments’. Bravi Stefano e Diego!
2016 Barolo – as tasted by DBG & CR on Friday 17th January 2020 14.5%, 10k Albeisa bts, bottled Nov’19, aged for 24 mths in 50HL Stockinger botti, followed by 8/9 months in cement prior to bottling. The Conterno’s classic Barolo blends fruit from across three large MGAs within Monforte d’Alba: San Giovanni, Bricco San Pietro & Ginestra. Their San Giovanni plot lies close to the comune of Barolo, bringing a softness to the blend, Bricco San Pietro adding mouth-watering freshness, and Ginestra (towards Serralunga) the spine. Yet there’s no disguising the quality of their handiwork or of the vintage (2016). Tight, fresh, with a glacier, Visciolo cherry core on the nose, the palate boasts a gorgeous texture, crunchy, taut & tightly coiled, sapido, with mentholated rose & brambly notes, cleansed by Monforte minerals & essential winemaking, down to the bone. Sealed with a brand-new line in corks, with total sulphur at bottling of 84mg/litro, with TAcidity at 5.82g/litre. All together tighter, yet delicious too!
2015 Barolo – tasted Nov’18, soon to be bottled in Dec’18, macerated for 27 days, from their four vineyards: San Pietro, San Giovanni, Ginestra & for the first time, Pajana (actually part of greater Ginestra, but shouldn’t be!): compact, presenza, red berry sultry, alpine herbs, coiled, beautiful poise, cherry stone, balsamic, curry notes even. So transparent, relaxed (pre-bottling!), bright, tight red berries (Pajana?), stellar!…retasted May 2019 – gorgeous pretty little red fruit, poor grey soils, marne rich (no sand). Very fresh and bright, glistening, generous yet precise, giving and open, so drinkable.
2014 Barolo – tasted from bottle March’18, bottled Nov’17, 13.85%, a complicated vintage that resulted in 10-30% less fruit, yet the cool year meant a slow, gradual ripening, wrapped up by the excellent late summer, from ferragosto (15 Aug) through Sept & until the late 20th Oct harvest. With this in mind, the Conternos decide to restrict the time on skins to 20 days, followed by 18 mths in mostly botti grandi. The result is compact, fresh, focus, very minerale, salivating even, distinctly marnoso, beautifully structured, sweet red core, unresolved, pinched but also poised for further development. Needs 6 mths at least in bottle to come together. A true Barolo del comune di Monforte d’Alba! Patience required.
2013 Barolo – a Barolo di Monforte, blending fruit from three vineyards: San Giovanni, San Pietro & Ginestra ‘Gris’ (on account of the grey soil that looks at Serralunga) for 28 days on skins then botte grande, tonneaux & cement: focus, racy, dried rose, floral, pretty, hint of hedgerows/brambles, of balsam oil, of cologne freshness…
2016 Barolo del comune di Monforte d’Alba – as tasted by DBG & CR on Friday 17th January 2020 14.5%, 5k bts bottled in Albeisa Sept’19, this brand-new wine celebrates the high quality, refined, mineral style of Monforte d’Alba! 60% of the fruit is drawn from their vigna Pajana, that lies within the Ginestra MGA, on the eastern escarpment facing Serralunga d’Alba, hence a higher presence of sand & calc. Meanwhile the remaining 40% comes from vigna Gris, older vines on the eastern boundary of Monforte with Serralunga, so known for its pale grey, nutrient poor marne soils. Given the proximity to Serralunga d’Alba, it’s not surprising that the inaugural vintage is a pretty pale, tea-leaf red, with suave, swooning white stone, curry plant, dried rose, orange peel & cassis fruit. The palate is focused, poised & ethereal, with plenty of freschezza and tension, so bright and lifted, sandalwood plays with strawberry, red fruit…elegant and sublime! Total sulphur 90mg/l, TAcidity 5.5g/l.
2016 Barolo Ginestra – bottled 5th Sept’19, but to be released in 2021!
2015 Barolo Ginestra – tasted Nov’18, bottled in Aug’18: composed, minerally, finely interwoven, recalls the stricter sinewy expression of Serralunga d’Alba just across the valley; taut, compact, lovely ripe fruit tannins, a tight weave, & a meat of minerality, very clean & pure. Promising…retasted May 2019- pure South, single vineyard, 380m asl, perfumed and elegant, harmonious, quite vertical and yet fluid, lovely purity of fruit, very long..
2014 Barolo Ginestra – 14.08%, tasted March’18, bottled Nov’17, total 3,280 produced! Vinified in s/s & cement, 22 days on the skins, then 24 mths in botte grande (nuovo). Compared to the Barolo di Monforte, their Ginestra is darker yet a brilliant hue, crystalline, gleaming, brambly red fruit, transparent, distinctly balsam oil, curry/turmeric notes even, whiff of seared meat; complete, dry rose petals, richer in texture than the Barolo, more purposeful sii! With a more assertive structure, squarer, Monforte tannins coupled with sweet ribes fruit, concreto/definite, racy, salty…shy, still its shell. Patience required for this most noble of Barolos!
2013 Barolo Ginestra – bottled Aug ’16, tonneaux/botte grande/cement, first debuted in 2010, this is very much the Sori Ginestra plot, lying perched above that of their kin Conterno-Fantino (from whom Diego broke away completely in 2000). Cupo, brambly iron character, sotto spirito, dark, brooding, closed, tamarind, dried fruit, almost distilled balsamic richness, seared meat (carnoso), shoulders, & deep seated tannic power, yet with a gleaming red pearl of sweet cassis fruit at its core… first year of the Stockinger botte grande. Needs time in bottle…….retasted Nov’18, this wine has now gone into a hole! Patience required!