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2002 Giacomo Conterno - Barolo Monfortino Riserva

Red
Wine Advocate 98
Varietal Nebbiolo
Category Reds
Region Italy, Piedmont
Producer Giacomo Conterno

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2002 Giacomo Conterno - Barolo Monfortino Riserva

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Wine Advocate   Conterno’s 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino is a legend in the making, or now that it is in bottle, it may be more correct to simply say it is a legend. The late Giovanni Conterno and his son Roberto Conterno created quite a stir when they announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002, a year in which most of the harvest in Piedmont was severely compromised by a cold summer and devastating hail in early September. But there was more. The Conternos not only announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002 but no Barolo Cascina Francia for the first time ever in the estate’s history. In a bit of defiance towards the press, the Conternos then announced no one would be allowed to taste the wine from barrel. Over the years, this stance softened. Visitors lucky enough to visit the cellars and sample the wine from cask knew what was in store. Simply put, the 2002 Monfortino is stratospheric. A dark, imposing, but sensual wine, it flows from the glass with a breathtaking array of dried roses, autumn leaves, wild cherries, plums, new leather, espresso, licorice and spices, showing phenomenal depth, richness and balance. The tension between the luxuriousness of the fruit and the austerity of the vintage is truly captivating. I have tasted the 2002 Monfortino multiple times from barrel and bottle. At times it has reminded me of what I imagine the 1971 tasted like upon release, at other times it has seemed more similar to 1978. According to Giovanni Conterno, the 2002 reminded him of the 1971. Either way, the wine is extraordinary. The 2002 Monfortino is the result of the cold vintage that was typical of Piedmont up until the mid 1980s. In many ways, it is a throwback to wines that can’t be made anymore in Piedmont. Roberto Conterno thought so highly of the 2002 Monfortino he gave the wine an extra year in barrrel. And of course, there is one sad footnote. The world lost Giovanni Conterno to cancer in 2004, but he made sure his last Monfortino was at least equal, if not better, than his most monumental wines. There is little doubt the 2002 Monfortino will soon take its place as one of the greatest Monfortinos ever made. It is the most fitting last chapter to the life of one of the world’s greatest winemakers. As always, I suggest readers who have an interest in Monfortino taste the wine as soon as possible, as it will soon head into a period of dormancy, which in this vintage may last several decades. One of my favorite vintages for current drinking is the 1970, which still looks to have another 30 years of fine drinking ahead of it! Anticipated maturity: 2027-2052.

Few properties are so closely linked with a single site as Giacomo Conterno. Since 1978 the Cascina Francia vineyard in Serralunga, a monopole holding, has been the source of all of the estate’s wines, including the Baroli Cascina Francia and Monfortino, rightly considered by most observers as among the most profound wines in the world. Needless to say, it was big news when proprietor Roberto Conterno purchased three hectares in Ceretta, also in Serralunga, in 2008. Would the new wines reflect the same house aesthetic as the wines from Cascina Francia, or would the terroir of Ceretta be the dominant factor? Could Ceretta yield wines of similar importance as those of Cascina Francia? After all, Cascina Francia was a cornfield with a few old vines from a past life when the Conternos purchased it in 1974. These were some of the questions Barolo lovers asked, and now, two years later some answers have begun to emerge. The first, and most obvious, is that the new wines are loaded with the Conterno house style. That said, they are works in progress. Roberto Conterno took over his parcels in Cerretta in mid-2008, after which he had the misfortune of suffering through several hailstorms. When I visited the new vineyards in the summer of 2008 Conterno told me he thought it would take two to three years for the vines to respond to his methods of viticulture. Clearly 2008 is not the optimal vintage by which to measure the ultimate potential of these wines, but there appears to be much to look forward to based on the 2009s I tasted from barrel recently. All of that said, the star among these new releases is without question the 2002 Monfortino, a wine that is destined to carve a place for itself as one of the greatest wines ever made. That it is the product of a vintage that was disastrous for nearly every other producer in Piedmont will only add to the shroud of mystique that has surrounded this wine since its birth.

Importers: Polaner Selections, Mt. Kisco, NY; tel. (914) 244-0404, The Rare Wine Co., Sonoma, CA; tel. (707) 996-4484Conterno’s 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino is a legend in the making, or now that it is in bottle, it may be more correct to simply say it is a legend. The late Giovanni Conterno and his son Roberto Conterno created quite a stir when they announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002, a year in which most of the harvest in Piedmont was severely compromised by a cold summer and devastating hail in early September. But there was more. The Conternos not only announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002 but no Barolo Cascina Francia for the first time ever in the estate’s history. In a bit of defiance towards the press, the Conternos then announced no one would be allowed to taste the wine from barrel. Over the years, this stance softened. Visitors lucky enough to visit the cellars and sample the wine from cask knew what was in store. Simply put, the 2002 Monfortino is stratospheric. A dark, imposing, but sensual wine, it flows from the glass with a breathtaking array of dried roses, autumn leaves, wild cherries, plums, new leather, espresso, licorice and spices, showing phenomenal depth, richness and balance. The tension between the luxuriousness of the fruit and the austerity of the vintage is truly captivating. I have tasted the 2002 Monfortino multiple times from barrel and bottle. At times it has reminded me of what I imagine the 1971 tasted like upon release, at other times it has seemed more similar to 1978. According to Giovanni Conterno, the 2002 reminded him of the 1971. Either way, the wine is extraordinary. The 2002 Monfortino is the result of the cold vintage that was typical of Piedmont up until the mid 1980s. In many ways, it is a throwback to wines that can’t be made anymore in Piedmont. Roberto Conterno thought so highly of the 2002 Monfortino he gave the wine an extra year in barrrel. And of course, there is one sad footnote. The world lost Giovanni Conterno to cancer in 2004, but he made sure his last Monfortino was at least equal, if not better, than his most monumental wines. There is little doubt the 2002 Monfortino will soon take its place as one of the greatest Monfortinos ever made. It is the most fitting last chapter to the life of one of the world’s greatest winemakers. As always, I suggest readers who have an interest in Monfortino taste the wine as soon as possible, as it will soon head into a period of dormancy, which in this vintage may last several decades. One of my favorite vintages for current drinking is the 1970, which still looks to have another 30 years of fine drinking ahead of it! Anticipated maturity: 2027-2052.

Few properties are so closely linked with a single site as Giacomo Conterno. Since 1978 the Cascina Francia vineyard in Serralunga, a monopole holding, has been the source of all of the estate’s wines, including the Baroli Cascina Francia and Monfortino, rightly considered by most observers as among the most profound wines in the world. Needless to say, it was big news when proprietor Roberto Conterno purchased three hectares in Ceretta, also in Serralunga, in 2008. Would the new wines reflect the same house aesthetic as the wines from Cascina Francia, or would the terroir of Ceretta be the dominant factor? Could Ceretta yield wines of similar importance as those of Cascina Francia? After all, Cascina Francia was a cornfield with a few old vines from a past life when the Conternos purchased it in 1974. These were some of the questions Barolo lovers asked, and now, two years later some answers have begun to emerge. The first, and most obvious, is that the new wines are loaded with the Conterno house style. That said, they are works in progress. Roberto Conterno took over his parcels in Cerretta in mid-2008, after which he had the misfortune of suffering through several hailstorms. When I visited the new vineyards in the summer of 2008 Conterno told me he thought it would take two to three years for the vines to respond to his methods of viticulture. Clearly 2008 is not the optimal vintage by which to measure the ultimate potential of these wines, but there appears to be much to look forward to based on the 2009s I tasted from barrel recently. All of that said, the star among these new releases is without question the 2002 Monfortino, a wine that is destined to carve a place for itself as one of the greatest wines ever made. That it is the product of a vintage that was disastrous for nearly every other producer in Piedmont will only add to the shroud of mystique that has surrounded this wine since its birth. -- Antonio Galloni

All sizes are 750mL unless otherwise noted.
Vintages and ratings subject to change at any time.
All pricing and availability subject to change.