International Wine Cellar
My first visit to this small estate outside Monforte found Giorgio Conterno bottling what I assume was the last of his 1999 Barolo. Giorgio represents the fourth generation at this small family domain, which owns seven hectares, including just over five of the superb Barolo Ginestra. Vinification is traditional, although Conterno points out that the wines ferment for about 10 days (no rotofermenters are used), vs. around 30 in the old days. Conterno ages his Barolo mostly in 35-hectoliter French ovals (he scrapes the insides of the barrels every five years to refresh them) but uses a very small percentage ofbarrique for his barbera and nebbiolo. There is only one Barolo, Ginestra, with a riserva produced in the best vintages. This special bottling normally comes from the same rows of vines, from poorer soil, and is vinified separately. Conterno told me that his riserva normally spends three years in oak and another year in bottle prior to being released, so I was not quite able to figure out why the ’99 was being bottled in September. Conterno describes his 2000 as easy and open but more “important” than his ’97, and with good aging potential. The ’97, he added, has more “internationally styled tannins that are less typial for nebbiolo.ä
Paolo Conterno Barolo Ginestra Riserva 1999
Good full red. Sweet aromas of raspberry and strawberry liqueur, licorice, cinnamon and dried flowers; very ripe and complex, but freshened by a cool mineral nuance. Then sweet, rich and large-scaled, with a strongly spicy character. Offers more mid-palate sweetness and flesh today than the 1999normale ö or is it simply that this wine has not yet been affected by the bottling? Finishes with dusty, broad tannins and excellent length.
Paolo Conterno Barolo Ginestra 1999
Medium red with an amber rim. Aromatically expressive aromas of dried rose, truffle, underbrush and tobacco. Silky on entry, then uncompromisingly dry and sitinctly closed int eh middle, dominated by its structure today. At once dense and juicy, with fresh hints of red fruits and spices. Finishes with strong, granular tannins that hit the palate late and coat the teeth. Left behind strikingly complex aromas in the empty glass. An infant.
Paolo Conterno Barolo Ginestra 2001
Tasted from the stainless steel tank. Medium red with a hint of amber. Deep, smoky aromas of dark berries, minerals and tobacco; some SO2 showing today. Dense, rich and deep; more densely packed than the 2000. Intriguing notes of underbrush, minerals and dried flowers. Finishes with big, dusty tannins that hit the palate late, reaching the front teeth. Offers strong potential. The most minerally of the three Barolo vintages I tasted at this address.
Paolo Conterno Barolo Ginestra 2000
Medium amber-tinged red. Pretty, perfumed aromas of rose petal, tobacco, leather and truffley underbrush. Then less open in the mouth than on the nose: dense and sweet but also juicy and penetrating, with sound acids for the year. Finishes with substantial chewy tannins that largely avoid dryness.
Paolo Conterno Langhe Nebbiolo Bric Ginestra 2001
Medium red. Thoroughly ripe aromas of strawberry, flowers and tobacco; very nebbiolo. Fat, sweet and lush, with rather open-knit red berry flavors and a silky texture. Finishes with sweet, dusty tannins and a slight youthful bitter edge.
Poalo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Ginestra 2002
Good deep red-ruby. Medicinal black cherry, minerals and mint on the rather cool nose. Juicy, tight and pure if rather un-giving, with tart-edged flavors of pomegranate and licorice. Very firmly built barbera with some noticeable tannins and brisk acidity. Needs at least a year or two of additional aging.
La Fornace Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Deeply saturated garnet with a ruby rim. Explosive aromas of violets, mint, mocha and marzipan. Vibrant, intense blackberry fruit in the mouth, complicated by notes of sweet tobacco and vanilla. Smooth, full, rich and focused, with satiny, mouth-coating tannins. The lingering finish conjures up mineral and dark berries. A luscious and profound Brunello.
Poggio Il Casetellare Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Nearly opaque garnet, with ruby highlights. Sensuous, almost overpowering scents of tobacco, tar and saddle leather. Sweet licorice, bittersweet chocolate and chestnut flavors are enveloped by mouthcoating tannins. The long finish carries with it an impression of overripe fruit. Deeply extracted and multilayered, this is a compelling wine whose rustic edge is more than compensated for by its uncommonly generous structure.
Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino
Intense dark ruby-garnet. Very fresh scents of red berry fruit complicated by sottobosco. Dense and sweet but racy, with high-toned plum, rhubarb, and anise flavors mingling with chocolate and vanilla. Not an especially complex wine, but harmonious, persistent and very pleasing.