When one of the oldest Barolo house changes guard, it is worth sitting up and taking notice. Cantina Giacomo Conterno is a great name in Barolo wines and was established in 1908. With the passing away of the formidable Giovanni Conterno in 2004, his son Roberto took the helm. There have been a few changes since then, which is why I was pleased to have an informal dinner at Zucca Restaurant in London to taste the latest releases.
But first some background as Nebbiolo is very sensitive to location and position in the vineyard. To understand the latest incarnation of Conterno is to understand two key acquisitions:
- The first important acquisition in the history of Giacomo Conterno was in 1974 when Roberto’s father purchased the 14-hectare Cascina Francia in Monforte d’Alba. This was a monopole vineyard and lead to the end of buying in grapes from other vineyards.
- The next important step was in 2008, when Roberto bought the Cerretta vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba. This vineyard has a completely different soil composition than the Cascina Francia vineyard; part clay and part limestone, allowing Giacomo Conterno to express the traditional style of G Conterno in his own way.
Tasting the two Barbera d’Alba side-by-side from both Cerreta and Cascina Francia vineyards, the elegance of the Cascina Francia vineyard is apparent, even more so as it was from a Magnum, but there is a richness to the Cerreta Barbera d’Alba that I quite enjoyed which is supremely in balance and has a long future to it.
Tasting the 2005 and 2006 Barolo side-by-side, both from Cascina Francia vineyard, I preferred the 2005 on the night but have to admit that the 2006 will be a better cellaring prospect. Both were difficult vintages, although 2006 had a very cold winter which makes for a happy Nebbiolo vine during the summer. At the moment, the 2006 broods like a teenager that likes to sit on the ground in public places, amongst the violets and the earth, but like all top Barolo it need another 5 to 10 years for it to ‘stand up’ and be comfortable with its innate power that is already apparent in the fruit and tannin.
My favourite wine of the evening
Langhe Nebbiolo Cerreta 2008. Not only because it is drinking well right now, and it was perfect with the lamb breast, cannellini, spinach and salsa verde, but this is an exuberant expression of the 2008 vintage. This is a declassified Barolo, released after 2 years, and has very fine tannins and a slightly cinnamon quality to the berry fruit. Slightly weighter in style than most Langhe Nebbiolo from 2008 vintage, this is a baby Barolo to go.
Thanks to Will Hargrove, Corney & Barrow and Zucca Restaurant, 184 Bermondsey St London.For more about Conterno and Barolo visit Will’s site: http://duvaultblochet.blogspot.com/
Image: Conterno vineyards and bottle photos, by @winewomansong