Notes from wine tasting–Day 1 2011 Piemonte trip

Few wineries have a better location than Conterno Fantino. Located at the “top of Monforte d’Alba” if you will, with view of the entire Piemontese Alps. The only thing better must be to be there early in the morning when the sun rises, and the mist covers the grounds.  So that’s what we did.  Even if the outside is breathtaking, ask to see their cellar. It’s new, it’s ecofriendly, and should be an inspiration for others.

Conterno Fantino, Winery

Claudio Conterno and Guido Fantino have since 1982 produced high quality wines. With 62 acres under vine, they produce around 140 000 bottles a year. We were fortunate to get to taste through most of their impressive range.

First out, the 09 Langhe Chardonnay Bastia. Fresh, flowery, buttery, and a mouthful. A tad oaky at this point – it spends 16 months in small barrels – should lose it over time. They make 6000 bottles of this, and as this was the best vintage we’ve tasted yet, we brought some home.

Conterno Fantino wines lineup

The 2010 Dolcetto d’Alba Bricco Bastia had just been bottled, after around 8 months in steel. Warm fruits, violets, and a bit minty on the nose. A good dolcetto, with good length.  Needs a couple of years in the bottle though.

Conterno Fantino market their Barbera d’Alba Vignota as their pasta wine. The 09 has spent 10 months in used barrels, and is a very elegant barbera. Tons of plum, acidic, and somewhat astringent (still) at the end.

The 09 Langhe Nebbiolo Ginestrino spent the same time in used barrels as the Barbera. On the nose it’s just like a barolo, with violets and licorice scents jumping out of the glass. This promises to be good, but you probable need to wait 10 years for this to come around.

The Langhe Monpra is undergoing changes. The blend has been 45% barbera, 45% nebbiolo, and 10% cabernet sauvignon, since 1992.  From 2011, there will be no cabernet, and it will be a pure Piemontese blend with 50% barbera and 50% nebbiolo. We tasted the 08, and we loved the dark fruit and tobacco nose. Combined with it’s elegance, in fact, so much, this was one of the 3 wines we brought home.

The 07 Barolo Vigna del Gris comes from vines with southeast exposure, planted in limestone and sand.  It’s dry and elegant, and fruity.

The 07 Barolo Ginestra is from vines in a clay area, with exposure to the south.  Performs almost like a La Morra barolo, with tobacco, flowers, plum, and sweet fruit on the nose, and the sweet tannins making it silky and smooth. A powerful Barolo indeed.

Conterno Fantino also makes their own Chinato.  They add 50+ herbs to their Barolo, and it is worth a try if you have not tasted this one before.

Osteria dei Catari, Monforte d'Alba

After lunch at the wonderful Osteria dei Catari, Rocche dei Manzoni was next stop on our journey.  I always recommend visiting Rocche dei Manzoni, as their winery is one of a kind (even kids will like it!), and the wines are not that far off either.

The estate is a piece of history in itself, and it shows that the late Valentino (tragically passed away in 2007) was one of the change agents in an area not exactly known for its willingness to change.  Their méthode champenoise, the Bricco Manzoni nebbiolo/barbera blend and their L’Angelica chardonnay (in the 70s, not many thought chardonnay should be grown in Piemonte, and blends were out of the question) are testaments to the changes he helped bring to the Langhe. 

Rocche dei Manzoni, Monforte d'Alba

By the way, it is hard to come by a nicer guy than the Wine Manager Giuseppe Albertino, who has been around forever.  And do not believe him when he says he cannot speak english…

Giuseppe Albertino, Rocche dei Manzoni winery tour

Although we asked only to visit and tour the cellar and the estate, Giuseppe insisted we taste some of the wines currently on offer.  And we seldom say no to such invitations…

The 2000 Bricco Manzoni is very floral, elegant, and long. We have our cellar stashed with the 01, which we think is a tad better, but the 00 is at it’s peak now, and thus a good buy if you’re planning on having it in 2011. They have been making this wine since 1976, and it is still a benchmark for the nebbiolo/barbera blends around.

Outside Rocche dei Manzoni winery

Quatr Nas is as the name suggests made from 4 types of grapes – Nebbiolo (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, and Merlot. It debuted in 1996, and the 04 is best one we’ve tasted since the 99.  Elegant and round, and very long.  It’s a strange variety, but we have till this day always had success in serving it to people.

Finally, we tried the latest Zero Brut, the 01.  Personally I am not a champagne-type-of-guy, and I know nothing about it.  But, it’s fruity, full of apple and pear, and has a cool name and comes in a cool bottle. As far as champagne goes, that’s enough for me.

Rocche dei Manzoni, Monforte d'Alba, wines, lineup

Next, off to Corte Gondina in La Morra for a quick rest, and then to More e Macine (also in La Morra) for some great food (and some more wine).

Corte Gondina Hotel in La Morra


Note: Day 1 of our Piemonte visit in 2011, was June 30. Sincere apologies for late posting.

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