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Conterno, Giacomo
Brovia
Via Del Grosso 3
12060
Castiglione Falletto
P-39 0173 62852
F-39 0173 462049
www.Brovia.net










Tasting from botte with Roberto Conterno - May 2008

Walking through the immaculate and cavernous facilty at Giaacomo Conterno one gets a sense of being in a special place. There is a certain sense of majesty that permeates the place. Not only is this the home to one of the finest producers in Italy, or the world for that matter, but Roberto is continuing a tradition of excellence that spans four generations.

The estate produces two bottlings from the same Cascina Francia vineyard; the eponymously named base bottling and the Riserva Monfortino. The difference between the wines is a matter of degree with the Monfortino representing a selection that starts in the vineyards. Grapes are marked for inclusion while on the vine, frequesntly from the same blocks vintage after vintage.

In the cellar while the Cascina Francia undergoes a temperature controlled fermentation the Monfortino is allowed free reign. The wines undergo long, traditional fermentations before being transferred to large botte for ageing, 4 years for the Casccina Francia and 7 for the Monfortino.

To say it was a pleasure to taste with Roberto is an understatement of epic proportions. The wines of Giacomo Conterno in my cellar represent my largest holding from a single producer and I have been enjoying these wines for over 20 years. In every vintage one can be sure that these wines represent the best that that vintage has to offer.

Unusual decisions, like making no Monfortino in 1989 or making only Monfortino in 2002 have set apart the Conternos for years but the proof is in the bottle. These wines are consistently stunning and among the tiny handful of finest wines from Italy in virtually every vintage. While prices have risen dramatically in recent years it is impossible to argue that the quality is not there. If one is looking for a value from Giacomo Conterno seek out their exceptional Barbera.

Barbera 2006 from Botte – 90pts
Starts of with a slightly feral nose, deep raspberry fruit, small alpine flowers, some spicy, fresh mushroom tones 2+
Bright yet a bit chewy in the mouth with admirable heft yet remains brisk with bracing acids that cleans the mouth2+
Intense spicy red berry/red plum fruit in the mouth that has a biting, mineral core turning a touch earthy on the back end 2+
Finishes with excellent length and great purity of dark yet not sweet fruit, mulberry and pomegranate notes 2+

Cascina Francia 2004 from botte -95pts
Very direct and focused on the nose with cherry in alcohol, a touch of beet root, bright woodsy tones of angelica root, nettle and soil notes with building strawberry fruit and a flourish of rose 3+
Grippy tannins and strong acidity frame the ripe fruit but the wine remains very elegant 3
Richly flavored in the mouth with wild cherry fruit edged with sandlewood, orange blossom and green herbal tones. Great mineral/limestone cut through the midpalate 3
Very brisk and long on the finish with fresh berry fruit, plum skin and a final of nettle and arugula 3

Cascina Francia 2005 from Botte – 91pts
Strong deep scents on the nose with cherry in alcohol, sandlewood, licorice/chinato herbs. 2+
A touch less elegant yet more powerful than the 2004 with tons of tight crisp tannins 2+
Bursting with ripe fruit with mineral, herbal and citrus notes adding complexity leading to a grippy if slightly austere back end 3
Finishes short and bracing at this point with amarena cherry notes on bright limestone 2+

Monfortino 2001 from Botte – 96pts
Huge intensity on the nose with a touch of shoe polish, clear rose notes followed by dark cherry fruit edged with bitter cocoa nuance, candle wax, sandlewood, rosehip and a small middle eastern spice notes. Really hits the back of the skull 4
A great marriage of elegance and power with a great sweetness of fruit balanced by intense acidity and huge tannins that are deeptive with their soft, gentle nature. This will take a long time to show it’s best 3+
Dark cherry fruit up front with a hint of roasting coffee bean, deep yet very fresh fruit though not showing too much at this point 2+
Finishes with great length offering up the slightly exotic spice notes from the nose leading to notes of rosehips and orangy acidity before ending on a sandlewood finale 3

Monfortino 2002 from botte – 97pts
Dark and brooding on the nose with an off the charts intensity to the earthy, almostly slaty mineral tones, smoky and spicy with caraway, beet root and dark savory tones dominating the nose 4
Big and suave in the mouth with a huge structure yet exceptional sweetness at it’s core 3+
While a bit tough the palate offers up deep, fresh berry fruit with notes of slightly astringent dark minerals and exotic, spicy tones 3
The finish is biting and long with a tarry quality and profound depth to the intense dark cherry fruit with it’s strong balsamic grace notes 3+
  • 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): This was the second of two bottles opened. The first was a flat out fake. Yet the bottle, labels, capsule all were perfectly correct and appropriat. On closer inspection the cork had puncture marks on both the top and bottom which explains why this vivid purple wine had notes of bouillion and caramel in it slick and sweetly fruited palate. I will ttrace the history back with this bottle and try to find the little bastard who added this to the world. Che sera sera. So we move on. Now if any bottle should have been a fake it would have been this one. Pristine lables, perfect in everyway, however the wine certainly could be 58 Monfortino. Apon opening aroun 2 pm the wine was dark brown and caramelly. Sweet in the mouth with a bit ofhorsey barnyard and a sprig of herb. Old but still structured, not much fruit. Simple and high toned VA, the finish shows some nice appeal with cocoa, spices, and an echo of strawberry. At around 7 pm this had not improved. the nose is spicier with some mint and a sense of serralunga medicinal notes over the nutty, veal reduction core of maderization. In the mouth the wine ha put on some weight and rounded out a bit but there is not much fruit here and what flavor interest there is , is obscured by the drying tannins on the finish. This was an expensive lesson on not chasing ones dreams, the only perfect wine i every had was a bottle of this. (83 pts.)
  • 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): This is consistant with other bottles from thiis lot. I was going to do a slow oxegenation experiment with two bottles of this but there was no point as this was wildly volatile apon opening around 2 pm and at 7 pm had barely improved showing a nose that was pure tootsie roll and madeira. The mouthfeel was fresh and crisp but the flavor profile here was just another set of over the hill flavors. Too bad. (78 pts.)
  • 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): This was popped and poured much later in the evening. Antonio brought this, a purchase made in Italy. The bottle is almost identical to mine, pretty pristine labels. Same bottle. This is in complete contrast to the volatile and maderized mess of those bottles. Fresh with herb, tar, gunpowder and mineral notes on the nose over a solid foundation of fruit. In the mouth this is clean and youthful with great balance. My notes were getting pretty sloppy at this point but a very fine bottle. (93 pts.)
  • 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (7/2/2007)
    Dinner with the Astorettes as we bid good bye to Acky (EU): This is a much lighter colored wine than only a few months ago having dropped much of it's solids leaving a pale onion skin colored wine that did rosy up a bit with air. The nose is sweaty sock at first with notes of sweet anise, tar, soy, cocoa, and earth adding some complexity. In the mouth the attack is round and soft but the palate is dominated by spiky acidity, the core of earthy fruit still has an echo or two of berries but the burning acidity quickly clears them away, the finish is decidedly earthy closer to wheat beer and apple cider than wine. An intellectual exercize. (73 pts.)
  • 1961 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): Opened around 1:30 pm when the wine showed a very pale bronze color with no red left - exhibiting a very soft nose of bouilion, spice, earth, and porcini - faint in the mouth with good and intact strucutre, no sense of damage just seems very faded with echoing strawberry fruit and a mineral core - arund 8 pm this has filled out well. the nose remains subtle with a base of tarry minerality and some sandy nuances as well as a sappy herb note. In the mouth this is showing beautifull with superb integration, just shy of velvetty with lovely sour cherry fruit over limestone. Finishes a bit short at first but really gains length with time, reallyresonant, the nose gains a big tobacco note too but also begins to reveal a bit of bandaid as well. This gave all it had this evening, at peak and just a great bottle. (94 pts.)
  • 1964 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (10/19/2006)
    which had a more candied profile on the nose with light cherry notes, hot rocks, roast, caramelized veal bones, a hint of maderization which clears up, some eucalyptus which gains strength but is off putting to some, some dried violet and rose enter the picture as well as some green anise seed. Lovely bottle sweetness up front leads to a hint of maderization, good acidity, the palate is a touch muted with light sour cherry fruit and an almost vanillin like candy note, very round and integrated mouthfeel with a medium length finish. Very solid showing (91 pts.)
  • 1964 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/25/2008)
    A night of fine wine, food, and company (NYC): This opens languidly with soil driven tones, light mint notes and some truffle notes all wrapped in a thin gauze of sweet maderization. With airing the wine opens to reveal a lightly candied note to the onion powder and dried vegetable tones. Fairly resolved in the mouth but well aging well with just a whisper of fruit left highlighted by the citrussy acidity. Offers layers of evolved flavors but at the very end of it's drinking window. (89 pts.)
  • 1967 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (10/19/2006)
    had a lovely, layered nose with a gamey edge. Some menthol with spicy green herbs and a very high toned nuance of oyster shells dominated at first but lovely notes of roast meat and marrow like sweetness became apperant with time. In the mouth the wine showed admirable richness with still some structure to burn, lovely red berries across the midpalate, big acidity peeking out on the finish, a great showing for the 67. Apon revisiting the palate added richness up front with a chewy, leathery ripeness that turned the midpalate a bit tough with some obvious tannin that the fading fruit doesn't quite manage to cover, lots of licorice on the finish. Very close to 4 star quality but it just misses (91 pts.)
  • 1967 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/25/2008)
    A night of fine wine, food, and company (NYC): Just phenomenal color here and the nose offer distinct contrast to the 64. Much greater freshness here with great mineral notes under quite fresh and typical notes of cherry and green herb. With time the developes a deep core lightly roasted meat/veal stock reduction and top notes of cigar tobacco and cigar ash as well as a touch of spice. Great richness in the mouth with balance and finesse that the 64 didn't have. The mineral and cool fresh fruit are in perfect harmony with admirable tension in the mouth. Complicating notes of smoke, coal, and incipient decay add depth. Absolutely at peak. 2008-2014 (93 pts.)
  • 1967 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (2/28/2008)
    Barolo 1958, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1987 (Chez Dal Piaz): This was my final Bottle of the 67 Monfortino and with the marketplace the way it is today it may very well be my last. That is of course a shame. I had expected this bottle to at peak if not on the downslope based on prior bottles but this turned out to be the best bottle yet. The nose was tight and reticent apon opening with sandy mineral notes and hints of beef blood, bookbinders glue, sweet fennel, and dark slightly confected fruits. In the mouth this remained very linear, tight and quite tannic with amarena cherry, a touch of mushroom, sandlewood, and hints of juniper, violet, and camphor all blossoming on the finish. By the time this was served the nose had blossomed revealing a rich sweet nose packed with moist earth tones, mint, dried spices, dried cherry fruit, truffle, floral tones, in short complete and vibrantly intact. In the mouth this starts very matte and muscular with a lovely sweetness to the layers of dried fruit in the mouth. This remains tannic and very youthful with excellent acidity, all the components are in place for 10-20 years of continued positive development for this bottle but still it offered so much pleasure this evening with it's long, spicy, brooding finish reminiscent of roast peaches and cherries. Lovely and my WOTF (97 pts.)
  • 1970 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): I was going to open this earlier in the day but forgot to so this was opened for maybe 2 hours when we got to it around 8 pm. The nose shows a touch of maderization, lots of mint, funky, earthy, boiled pigs feet then cocoa. Good freshness and acidity with good flavors and intensity though predominantly towards the bouillion and cocoa end of the spectrum, the finish is lovely with a bright, clean limestone vein. delicious though at the end of it's plateau. Drink em if you got em. (89 pts.)
  • 1970 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): opened around 1:30 pm - just a shade lighter and more amber than the 71 but fantastic color - a volatile nose with a braised vegetable base, lots of prosciutto fat, game, spice, and licorice - more resolved in the mouth, good balance, less flavor intensity and inner mouth perfume than the 71. Very mineral driven with balsam and citrus top notes to the fainter amarena cherry fruit. The tannins really grow here. At around 7 pm this is another of the wines that people alternately call corked. I notce the tca notes at times but for the most part the nose here is expressively sharp and bright with mineral and mint tones. This has gained flavor intensity yet remains deliciously austere in the mouth with an intense tarry vein and black spices dominating the palate. Firmly at peak and the right time to be drinking these if you have them. (90 pts.)
  • 1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): opened around 1:30 when this showed a great bronze color with a ruby core. the nose is intense, dark, gamy, spicy and very salty. In the mouth this is tough and tannic with a huge espresso and earth entry, finishes short and astringent with subdued fruit under some curry like spiciness that leads to a long, medicinal finish. Aound 8 pm the nose has gained intensity and has an almost jammy blackberry liquor note with smoky nuances that recall matchstick and gunpowder, earthy and layered, curing tobacco notes - In the mouth there is succulence here, with intense, deep fruit, superb structure, pefect balance, immense power with exceptional fruit/mineralbalance. wow this is dense and chewy and just a joy to drink, too bad this is my last bottle but at absolute peak. (97 pts.)
  • 1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): Antonio brought this over as well so it must have been after 10 pm when this was popped and poured - the nose is exceptionally perfumed filled with spicy hightoned fruit- another wine whose chewy and dense natures belies it's age. Tons of sweet fruit, lots of sottobosco inner mouth perfume and dried pine cones, bags of acidity, fabulous density of red fruits. A hit all around and another delisous 71. (94 pts.)
  • 1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/25/2008)
    A night of fine wine, food, and company (NYC): This was deep blood red and very youthful and powerful looking. Opening reticently with oyster shells, smoke, loam, and resin notes the fruit here never quite broke through the overwhelmingly dark, mineral laden earth blanket. Mouthfillingly rich yet showing lovely integration from ageing that has rounded any sharp edges this retained a deep core of dark fruit that shows no sense of being cooked or roasted but is at the absolute limit of fresh ripeness. This needs more time to pop and offers primarily dark, medicinal fruit tones at this point but remains very complete. Probably needed an additional 3-4 hours of breathing time to really express itself. Potentially profound (93 pts.)
  • 1974 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): opened aroun 1 pm when this showed quite some auburn coloring with a gentle rouge core - the nose is tight, leaning towards leather and herbs with a gamey edge and just a touch of maderization creeping in. In the mouth the wine is very large scaled, tight but packed with flavor, great acidity, menthol and cherry fruit, tannins really clamp down on the finish. the finish returns both savory and succulent. At aroun 8 pm this has only started to explode with intense menthol, limestone, beef jerky, smoked meats nose that is very layered, scortched earth. Wow this is great in the mouth, bright acidity, tannins have integrated exceptionally well, not sign of the maderization i noticed earlier, sour cherry fruits that really gain sweetness over the course of the evening, another 74 that shows great sweetness in spite of it's austerity. Great flavor complexity with a gamy berry streak running through to the finish which shows a bit of wet animal and fig towards the end of the evening. I wish I had a case of this wine. Certainly can go another 10-15 years. (97 pts.)
  • 1978 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (7/29/2007)
    Another night with old friends... (New York City): Que the music form 2001 A Space odyssey. A wall of a nose redolent of dark cherries, nettles, sweet licorice, moist earth with airing the fruit turns a bit macerated and the citrus tones pop a bit. In the mouth this starts out monolithic, dense and chewy with great structure, massive yet seamless without any clumsiness at all. This remains very tight and youthful throughout the entire evening slowly revealing notes of gunpowder, tea, and fresh rose on the nose until, of course, the final sip when the parts have aligned to allow one a glimps of what is to come. It is though a flag is unfurled in ones mouth reaching up into the sinuses and down the gullet enveloping all in an etheral blanket of sweet and complex fruit. this still needs 10 years plus to peak. Monumental. (98 pts.)
  • 1987 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): Apon opening around 1 pm this showed a gorgeous brnished red color. Exhibits a faint nose of iron, blood, and roasted stock bones. Some upfront sweetness in the mouth, dense and compact with great structure and a core of slightly confiture strawberry fruit with some leather and herbs on the long finish, a superb early showing.

    At around 8 pm the nose here is and endless pool of menthol tinged, minerally spicy dark berry, wild strawberry fruit - rich and dense in the mouth yet still very linear and tight. Retains the vibrancy of youth, full of soft tannins, floral and bitter cocoa top notes emerge. A very compelling bottle of wine that is just beginning to drink at peak. (96 pts.)
  • 1987 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (2/28/2008)
    Barolo 1958, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1987 (Chez Dal Piaz): This was afforded some 4 hours to breath and while it showed well it was not nearly as expressive as last years bottle. the nose was wonderful with apricot fruit right up front, very gentle indian spice tones, classic rose notes, really clean and bright with orange flesh, seared cherry and almond milk all adding depth. In the mouth this comes of as very sweet and painfully young with tons of tannin yet excellent transparency. I think this is just much less evolved than last years bottle but can't rule out a bit of damage. Of course the damage may very well have been to me after so many bottles of fine wine. (93 pts.)
  • 1993 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (10/22/2007)
    Once a Month begins with Nebbiolo; 10/20/2007-10/22/2008 (NYC): This bottle was not happy to be opened with a lean leathery character and a nose dominated by mineral and menthol notes. Medium full in the mouth with a touch of herbs up front and a very spiky midpalate that feathered out into a long finish that was a touch hot but offered a glimpse of fruit within as well as echoing the chalky, menthol character of the nose. More closed than open with a fair amount of tough tannins to resolve. Leave for 3 years (85 pts.)
  • 1993 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/21/2008)
    Dinner in NYC (Il Corso): This was popped and poured and immediately offered up a rose scented nose with spicy, slightly roasted, smoky cherry fruit and a hint of melon rind. Still pretty rigid on the nose but offering up great depth and purity at this stage. In the mouth this has gained weight since I last tried it. great freshness with a taut core of hard candy red fruits and lovely balance and precision with a wonderful core of amarena cherry fruit and a long clean finish.This is still a baby but is so precise and brisk in the mouth with a gentle austerity and the purity of a fine wine tat I could drink a bottle of this a week and be very happy though it will continue to improve. 2008-2020 (90 pts.)
  • 1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (10/23/2007)
    Once a Month begins with Nebbiolo; 10/20/2007-10/22/2008 (NYC): This offers a stark contrast to previous wines with it's sappy, almost burgundian fruit that remains cool and crisp and exceptionally primary with it's spicy loganberry character. This enterw the mouth with an explosion of ripe fruit sweetness that spreads across the tongue and offers up an intensity of fruit that is new worldly yet retains balance and sinewy muscularity that is firmly of the old. So round and rich right now, the only relief from the fruit is a lovely mineral tinge on the finish. At this stage the structure is still very much hidden and integrated in the plush fruit. This will be a wicked wine when it matures. 2013-2030 (94 pts.)
  • 1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (3/11/2007)
    19 bottles of barolo or how I drank my Monfortini; 3/10/2007-3/11/2007 (6h): This was opened aroun 5 pm but it was about 9 pm by the time we got to it. At first the nose is balsam tinged strawberry fruit before exploding with hints of menthol, tar, boysenberry, muskmelon, so perfumed and intense but it fails to prepare one for the intensity in the mouth, outrageous concentration of intensely sweet and sapid fruit, after the subtlties of the older wines this is overstimulation. It's like getting a hand job without lubricant from, as Ken adds, an old farmer, if you like that sort of thing of course. Like I said overstimulation. This is just a monster, It'll probably shut down soon but is worth trying if you've got enough as it is like Barolo concentrate. Bravo! (97 pts.)
  • 2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2006)
    2001 G. Conterno Cascina Francia – deep and balsamic nose, tons of black minerality, dark fruits, plum skins, mossy green herbs, rich tar, menthol, incredible depth and power on the nose. Super rich cherry fruit on entry, chewy, sinewy, black spice great depth, tons of soft tannins, such richness, this reminds me of 1989 Cascina Francia with it’s dollop of Monfortino. This is exceptional (96 pts.)
  • 2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/12/2008)
    There nose here remains wide open with dominated at first with notes of balsam and menthol. The fruit emerges slightly stewed and dried with strawberry tones in the fore. Complex tones of leather and resin emerge as the nose continues to add a spicy, floral, herbal range of top notes.

    In the mouth the wine is chewy than when last had but still supported by brilliant acidity. Sour green plum and strawberry with lots os astringent strawberry seed notes fill the mouth. The tannins build throughout the night though are very fine grained and polished and the finish tightens up offering anise and green cardamom notes on the finale. Still open this is showing signs of beginning to shut down. It is elegant and complete with a long life ahead. 2013-2030 (93 pts.)
  • 2005 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d'Alba (1/18/2008)
    An intense and very youthful nose of soil, mineral, plumskin, and cigar ash. Focused and taut in the mouth with wonderfully ripe acidity and great minerality all balanced against the slightly astringent plummy fruit. Turns darker fruited with airing revealing a core of blackberry fruit. The finish is very long with a touch af malo butteriness still. Delicious now but with all the ingredients for a long healthy life. 2008-2018 (90 pts.)
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