1943 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva

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Arguably the definitive Barolo, Giacomo Conterno’s Monfortino Riserva was first made in 1920, at a time when Barolo was generally sold in either cask or demijohn and intended for drinking straightaway – not a wine for ageing.

The “Monfortino” name commemorates Conterno’s home village Monforte d’Alba, the southernmost village in the Barolo wine growing region.

Monfortino Riserva was made from bought-in grapes until the 1974 purchase of 14-hectares of wheat fields in Serralunga d’Alba, at 400 metres above sea level.

Vines were planted and grapes from what was now named the Cascina Francia vineyard were first turned into wine in 1978.

Nowadays Monfortino Riserva is aged for seven years in botti – 30,000-litre (!) Slavonian (note to wine geeks: not Slovenian; Slavonia is a region in east Croatia) oak barrels – before it’s bottled and released.

In the old days, the wine was aged for even longer – perhaps ten years or more – and was dauntingly tannic.

Monfortino Riserva is still made with no attempt – no matter how hot the fermenting grapes are – at temperature control.

As my late friend and former colleague Nick Belfrage MW put it: “the wine displays a complexity of aroma and a breadth and depth of flavour only possible in a wine which has teetered on the very brink of existence and, triumphantly, survived…”

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