Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Giacomo Conterno

Before our visit to the Giacomo Conterno winery, which is in Monforte, we headed over to the Cerretta cru in Serralunga.

Roberto Conterno of Giacomo Conterno has been bottling Nebbiolo and Barbera grown in this vineyard since 2008.

What became apparent to me on this visit to Cerretta is that it is pretty big, and that it encompasses some different exposures as it wraps along the slope.

In fact, you can hear about what is known as Bricco Cerretta and Cerretta Piani, different areas here, or you can think of the whole place as the one Cerretta.

I am not sure, in fact, whose parcels of Cerretta I walked through. As indeed I walked around for awhile, and there are several growers with parcels here.

Giacomo Conterno controls two seperate parcels in Cerretta, one a bit higher on the slope than the other. In all likelihood what is in the above picture is neither Conterno parcel, although the pictures do give an idea of the place in general, which is quite beautiful.

I do know that the Conterno Nebbiolo parcel, wherever exactly it is, was planted in 1993 and 1994.

If you might like to see some pictures of the Cascina Francia vineyard, which is of course the vineyard with which Giacomo Conterno is most closely associated, you can check out the pictures of Cascina Francia that I took last year.

Our tour of Cerretta over, we headed over to Monforte, where I took this picture from the driveway of the Giacomo Conterno winery.

It is still the winery of Giacomo and his son Giovanni, as the old bottles and the letterhead in the tasting room makes clear, although of course Giacomo's grandson Roberto tends to the large botti today.

There are several of those botti in the expansive cellar.

And the place really is quite spacious.

Everything we tasted during our stay, all 8 wines, are still in wood and ageing. We did not try any bottled wines during the visit.

Roberto led us on a tasting of pairs. We started with 2010 Cerretta Barbera and 2010 Cascina Francia Barbera. And then there was 2009 Cerretta Nebbiolo and 2009 Cascina Francia Nebbiolo. After which we proceeded to the 2010 Cerretta Nebbiolo and 2010 Cascina Francia Nebbiolo. The 2010 Nebbiolos, still early in their evolution, had not been racked yet.

It was interesting to take a peak at the Barberas. Roberto had mentioned at one point that he feels 2 to 3 years after bottling is always a good moment for drinking the Barberas. But in terms of this tasting, I found it hard to dislike the kind of dark and perumed fruit that one finds now in the 2010s.

But of course the stars of the show were the Nebbiolos we tried. This 2010 Cerretta Nebbiolo was the best version of Conterno Cerretta Nebbiolo that I have experienced thus far. It had grip and an allusive black truffle character. The 2010 Cascina Francia Nebbiolo was even better, with its subtle nose and excellent everything on the palate. It was all there, the broad minerality, the blend of elegance and power, the effortless concentration, and the complexity of fruit that says hey, I'm kind of a big deal, ya know? 2010 Cascina Francia is going to be a looker.

Roberto, I should mention, purchases botti from Franz Stockinger in Austria these days. This is the same cooperage that Poderi Oddero and others use as well.

Of course, this is not the only Austrian brand that is featured in the cantina of Giacomo Conterno.

We tasted out of Zalto glassware from Austria as well.

Trying the wines from the different vineyards in pairs was a real treat, and something that I just don't often get to do for wines as expensive as these. As you might expect, the differences and the similarities are both more apparent when you taste this way.

Roberto told us a bit about the differences between Cerretta and Cascina Francia. He said that Cerretta gives more fruit and tannins, while Cascina Francia shows more minerality. He said that for Cascina Francia he prefers the 2008 vintage (which I tried during our visit and really liked) to the 2009 vintage, as the 2008 vintage is more complete of a wine and he in fact adores it, but that for Cerretta he preferred 2009. He also talked a bit about his decision making regarding whether his Nebbiolo from Cerretta should be labelled as Barolo, as it well could be. Up to now he has declined to do this, because he has been hesitant to say that the wine is at the level of a Giacomo Conterno Barolo, but for the 2010 vintage he will probably do so. Roberto said that in his opinion the 2011 vintage would be the real test of Cerretta in terms of its suitability for the "Barolo" label, because it was a difficult vintage in general.

Roberto told us a bit about some of the other recent vintages. He said that both 2007 and 2006 had strangely warm winters, with no snow and little rain. He mentioned that the Nebbiolo harvest in the cooler 2008 vintage was in October. And he said that he thinks 2010 was fantastic. In terms of the vintages that he has determined appropriate for a Monfortino bottling, he has so far picked 2005, 2006, and 2008 for future Monfortino releases, leaving out 2007.

We got a chance to try the 2005 Monfortino, which had just been racked, and what a very lovely 05ish nose it displayed. Darker in fruit on the palate than many 2005 Barolos I have had, there was that typical 2005 chalkiness under the fruit that I refer to in my own notes as gesso paste. Perhaps this is appropriate for the classic Italian palate, to have a fresco base.

A bit more time looking around the cellar.

And then we walked over to the fermenting area.

Both the Barberas and the Nebbiolos are fermented in wood.

And these Stockinger fermenting vessels are pretty ingenious, because as you can see from the picture, they have removable tops. So the wine can be fermented open top and with oxygen exposure, or closed top and without. The fermenters are also kept off the ground, so that they can be easily picked up and moved if need be.

Roberto said that in some years he submerges the cap of the fermenting must, and that in some years he pumps over. It depends on what the vintage gives.

It has become clear over the course of the visit that Roberto is extremely concerned with the small details of each harvest and the wines that result. He is clearly trying to honor his family's legacy with wines worthy of their reputation.

The youngest vintage at Giacomo Conterno may also do the same one day.

Meanwhile, from the tasting room, Giovanni looks on.

1 comment:

Deadly Bunny and Chubby Penguin said...


Wondering how you made appointment to visit the winery of Giacomo Conterno. I would be grateful if you could let me know.

Thank you.

Best Regards,