Conterno Fantino is located high above the ancient fortified town of Monforte d’Alba, relishing in a privileged position in the legendary Barolo wine zone.
Founded in 1982 by two friends with strong roots in the winemaking business, the winery’s philosophy has remained unchanged over the years. And that philosophy is to run the winery “with the utmost respect for the land and tradition.” This is because the owners and their team believe this is the best way to guarantee quality wines.
To help ensure excellent health and quality, the grapes are cultivated organically with no use of synthetic pesticides or weedkillers. They normally use half new and have second-use French oak barrique for their aging but it depends on the vintage. But this is not a hard-and-fast rules and each vintage is treated according to its specific characteristics.
What’s in a Name?
Conterno Fantino makes four Barolos, all similar in expression yet unique to their specific microzone. Each is located within the Barolo zone, which is broken up into eleven municipalities over 1700 hectares (4,200 acres): Cherasco, Verduno, Roddi, La Morra, Grinzane Cavour, Castiglione Falletto, Diano d’Alba, Barolo, Novello, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba.
There are then 170 Additional Geographical Definitions that stretch across all eleven municipalities. There are eleven of these in Monforte d’Alba, including Ginestra, Mosconi and Castelletto, where the Conterno Fantino Barolo vineyards are located. Hence, these are not proprietary names, and other wineries in the districts can and do use them.
The second name is the name of Conterno Fantino’s specific vineyard (vigna in Italian) or plot – Vigna Sori Ginestra, Vigna del Gris, Vigna Ped, and Vigna Pressenda. The names do not have specific meanings, but are the historic names of the vineyards. Sori’ Ginestra may have come about because sori` means “south” in the Piedmont dialect and the vineyard is in fact in the southern portion of the Ginestra district. Since this is how they had always referred to the vineyard, the name stuck. Vigna del Gris takes its name from the gray-colored soil of the vineyard as gris means “gray” in Piedmontese.
Conterno Fantino’s flagship wine. The vineyard is located in the Ginestra district on one of the most important hills in Monforte, if not Barolo itself. It is the thoroughbred of Barolos, and fully reflects its terroir. Located 340 meters (1,115 feet) above sea level, it fully benefits from southern exposure, which affords the vines warm sunlight from morning to night. The soil is not sandy, and is a bit more compact. The wines from this vineyard are bigger, with much more body, structure and tannins. The older part of this vineyard was planted in 1971, giving the wine its unique elegance and complexity.
Vigna del Gris
The “princess” of Conterno Fantino. It’s feminine and delicate, and the most accessible of the range, thanks also to its unparalleled intrigue, finesse and elegance. Located just 300 meters (984 feet) above sea level in the Ginestra district, the vineyards are southeast-facing with a lighter sandy soil. The wines are opulent and refined. The oldest vines in the vineyard were planted in 1978.
Located on the historic Mosconi hill (in the Mosconi district) and Conterno Fantino has a small plot in the southernmost area. The wine from this vineyard is all about power, structure, freshness and elegance. It stands up to long cellaring – as do the others. The vineyard is up high on the hill coming in at 360 meters (1,181 feet) above sea level and the oldest vines were planted in 1960. Like Sori Ginestra, the soil is rich in clay and limestone and quite compact. Because of this, this Barolo is assertive, masculine and structured, and has noticeable acidity due to the elevation.
Found in the Castelletto district of Barolo. It is Conterno Fantino’s new challenge. The vineyard was already recognized for excellence through its past winemakers, but it’s time to see how Conterno Fantino puts its inimitable spin on it. The vineyard is 360 meters (1,181 feet) above sea level and is southeast-facing. The wines are most similar to Vigna del Gris, and are somewhat lighter, perfumed and refined. The oldest vines were planted in 1969.
Brunello’s homeland and namesake comes from the town of Montalcino in Tuscany, Italy. The appellation is small compared to others in Tuscany at only 59,309 acres, and of that area, only 15% of it is under vine. Brunello has existed, in some form, since the 14th century, but it was not until 1865 that Brunello was recognized as an award-winning wine at a fair in Montalcino. For most of its existence, Brunello has been an exceedingly rare wine. In fact, there were only 11 producers of Brunello in 1968 when the wine received its DOC status. It later went on to receive a DOCG status in 1980.
The regulation of Brunello di Montalcino is strict to preserve the integrity and quality of the wine. The wine must be produced in the Montalcino area and may only contain Sangiovese grapes. This regulation led to a scandal when, in 2008, some wineries were charged with fraud for adding other grape varieties to their Brunello. The scandal known as “Brunellogate” exemplifies the region’s commitment to protecting this local wine and consumers around the world.
In addition to grape varieties and production area regulations, Brunello has requirements for aging too. Brunello must be aged for five years, six years for Riservas, before they are released into the market. Of that period, at least, two years must be spent in oak barrels and, at least, four months in bottle. Both Brunello and Brunello Riserva must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%
Brunello di Montalcino has a beautiful ruby red color that darkens to garnet with age. But arguably its most striking feature is its beautiful nose. Aromas of red and black berries, cherries, vanilla, chocolate, jam, leather, and cedar are all common in this wine. The wine tends to be dry and full in the mouth with smooth, round tannins. Brunello pairs well red meats and games dishes, as well as mushroom, truffles, and seasoned cheeses. Brunello is best when served in a large round wine glass at 65°F. Enjoy Brunello di Montalcino from one of these three world-renowned producers: Costanti and Fuligni.
Barolo takes its name from a small village of about 700 people in Langa. Currently, there are eleven communes in the production area of Barolo including Barolo, La Morra, Monforte, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglio Falletto, Novello, Grinzane Cavour. Verduno, Diano d’Alba, Cherasco, and Roddi. The movement to protect and regulate Barolo began in the late 18th century, but it was not until 1926 that the Consortium for the Defense of Barolo and Barbaresco was created to protect the wines. In 1966, Barolo was granted DOC status, followed by DOCG status in 1980.
Regulations for the vinification of Barolo starts with the grape and the vineyards. All Barolo must is made from 100% Nebbiolo. Vineyards producing the Nebbiolo grape must fall within one of the eleven communes and can only have 3,300 vines per acre, however, many producers limit this number even further to increase the quality of the grapes. Once the grapes have been picked and fermented the wine must be aged; for Barolo the wine must be aged for 38 months, 18 of which must be in wood, and for Barolo Riserva, the wine must be aged for 62 months, 18 of which must be in wood. Both wines are required to have a minimum of 12.5% alcohol content.
“Whether, a person prefers traditional or modern style Barolo most people can agree that Barolo is uniquely expressive of it’s terroir.”
Since the creation of the regulations wine makers have been involved in the “Barolo Wars” where so-called Traditionalists and Modernists have argued over the best way to produce Barolo. For the Traditionalist Barolo is made in large oak casks, and the resulting wine is very aromatic, generally lighter in color, and has firm tannins. Often these Barolos fair best with several years of cellaring after bottling. The Modernist lean towards to shorter maceration and the use of smaller French barrels to create a wine that is more fruit driven and ready to drink.
Whether a person prefers traditional or modern style Barolo, most people can agree that Barolo is uniquely expressive of its terroir. The wine has been called dark, rich, brooding, silky, fruity, firm or soft. Most Barolos will have notes of cherries, floral, oak and spices, but it is not uncommon to also have notes of leather, chocolate, coffee, and tobacco. As with all Italian wine Barolo is meant to pair with food and goes especially well with beef, lamb, game birds, and pasta with robust tomato sauces. Barolo is best when served in a large round wine glass at 65°F.
In Italy Barolo is king, and with the quality and craftsmanship of the wine being produced it is easy to see why. Whether you are wine novice or a wine expert Barolo is a wine that can be enjoyed by all. In an article written by Tom Maresca one local aficionado was quoted saying “As a young person, you love big, delicious flavors — so you drink Barolo. In your middle age, you seek something more solid, something less obvious — so you drink Barolo. In your wisest years, you want a wine that allows you to think about and savor the pleasures of maturity, both its maturity and your own — so you drink Barolo.”