Last week I had the good fortune to meet with Franco Conterno, of Poderi Aldo Conterno, and taste through a range of their recent releases. Of course, Franco is one of Aldo's sons - who together with his brothers, runs the famed winery their father created.
|The Poderi Aldo Conterno Tasting Lineup|
The first wine Franco presented was the 2009 Langhe Rosso which is a blend of 80% Freisa and equal parts Cabernet and Merlot. Dark purple, soft and generous, this is clearly one of the everyday wines of the region; even moreso than Dolcetto. Despite the addition of the Cabernet and Merlot, the wine is very accessibile with little tannic structure. Ripe berry fruit is balanced well with slight spice, flowers and menthol. Fermented in stainless steel, the wine is then barrique aged for 6 months prior to release. Pretty wine. 88 points.
Franco then began to tell me a story regarding the naming of the 2009 Barbera d'Alba "Conca Tre Pile". The wine is sourced from grapes that come from a distinctly hilly section of the Bussia Soprana vineyard. This section is oddly shaped, in the form of a sea shell, or Conca. When I asked him what was meant by "Pile" - he explained that it's a reference to the 3 large posts that support the massive gate which opens to allow access to that portion of the vineyard. The wine is 100% Barbera and is a deep violet color. Bright berry and raspberry tones are accented with slight spice from the wood but there is also a juicy licorice tone to the wine. The vines that provide the fruit for this wine are between 20-45 years old. The Barbera is fermented in stainless steel and aged in 100% new French Barrique. 90 points.
Conterno sources their Barolo from the Bussia vineyard and bottles five different versions based upon single vineyard subplots therein. The first wine is simply a "Barolo". I asked Franco, after mentioning my previous tasting of the 1989, why they dropped the word "Bussia" from the label of their estate Barolo. He chuckled and said: "We're putting it back on starting next vintage". The Barolo is a blend of grapes coming from throughout the entire Bussia Soprana area.
The next three Barolo: Colonello, Cicala, and Romirasco are all singular expressions of a vineyard plots in Bussia Soprana. Each is bottled separately if vintage conditions permit and each contributes fruit to the estate's Barolo Riserva, GranBussia. With the exception of GranBussia, all the Barolo are fermented in stainless steel and then transferred to large Slavonian Casks (second passage) for aging. GranBussia is discussed below.
The 2008 Barolo has a deep, cherry, garnet color. The nose offers abundant aromas of flowers, black cherry and spice. In the mouth, the wine is very precise, elegant and flavorful with ripe black fruits, a touch of licorice and a floral essence. It's full bodied with ample structure, yet this is already approachable. It's elegant and masculine at the same time and is so well balanced that it can seemingly age effortlessly for a decade or more. Conterno's best value of all the Barolo produced. 93 points, about $75.
In discussing the three Barolo with Franco, I was drawn to his comments about what makes the vineyards and the resulting wines so different. His comments:
"There are three sub-plots: Colonello, Cicala, and Romirasco. The major difference is in the soil. Colonello is mostly planted in sand. This allows the wine to show well early and really emphasizes the elegance of the vineyard. Colonello is the most feminine of the three and is also the youngest."
"Cicala is planted mostly in limestone. It picks up a mineral trait from the land. This allows the wine to be more robust, more masculine with excellent aging potential, but yet still, is elegant. Vines are typically 50-75 years of age."
"Romirasco is the most powerful of the three vineyards. It's planted all in clay and the vines must work very hard. This is the most masculine expression of Monforte and the vines are greater than 75 years old."
Given the above, the Cicala and Romirasco were not presented because of their tendency to be as Franco said: "chiudi" or closed. This was the very reason they presented only Colonello. The 2008 Colonello displays the sort of personality that Franco described. The wine is a dark cherry color, but here you can see a slight hint of orange around the rim. It's open and florally aromatic with loads of berry and cherry fruit. There's spice, licorice and flowers on the palate that surround a very finely grained core of fruit. It's very elegant and easily drinkable right now. There's structure behind the femininity, but I think the charm of this wine is it's youth. I'd cellar Cicala and the Barolo Bussia, but drink this one sooner rather than later. 93 points.
|2005 Aldo Conterno Barolo GranBussia Riserva|
Finally, we tasted the 2005 Barolo Riserva "GranBussia". GranBussia gets spared no expense. Unlike all the other Conterno Barolo, which are fermented in stainless steel and then aged in large Slavonian Botti, Granbussia is fermented and aged in wood - 100% of which is new. The blend is comprised from only the finest grapes from the other three subplots in the following percentages: 70% Romirasco, 15% Cicala, and 15% Colonello. The result is a massively proportioned wine that is full bodied, powerful, and masculine. Franco stated that GranBussia is made in only the best vintages and that 2005 is the most recent release. Franco sadly mentioned that there is no 2004 or 2007 GranBussia because in those years the vineyards were completely destroyed by hail. (Romirasco in 2004 & Cicala in 2007)
In the glass, we're greeted by a deep cherry color that leads to a vibrant copper hue at the rim. The aroma is a bit tightly wound, but one can sense the evolution of the wine as the nose displays some additional aromas of leather and tar in accent to the deep cherry tones. On the palate, the wine is full bodied, with lots of structure. There are loads of tannins to shed, yet the wine still manages to come across as elegant. The core of cherry fruit is delicious, but the flowers, leather and tobacco are notable. This clearly needs 10-15 years of bottle age, but will likely emerge as one of the best Barolo from the 2005 vintage. This wine has always been expensive, but given the reviews from the critics, including the bestowment of a 100 point score by one of them, this wine will be unattainable for most. 95 points. About $400.
|Franco Conterno with the 2005 Barolo Riserva, GranBussia|