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Producers Who Inspire Us: Giacomo Conterno - Volcanic Selections

In the world of Piedmontese viticulture, Giacomo Conterno reigns king. Now represented by its third-generation winemaker, the family has created an unmatchable legacy that is certain to withstand the test of time. Like the Giacosas and Mascarellos of the wine world, the Conterno name evokes a sense of viticultural authority that only a century’s worth of diligent work and flawless craftsmanship could provide. These wines are some of the most profound and prestigious bottles of varietal Nebbiolo on the planet, known for their rigorous structure and unbelievable ability to age.

Giacomo Conterno

The Monfortino-based estate was first founded in the 1920’s by Giacomo Conterno. Although Giacomo wasn’t the first person in his family to make wine, he was the groundbreaking member to begin bottling wines under their own family name (the first recorded vintage to be produced at the hands of the family estate was 1924).

Upon Giacomo’s passing in the 1930s, his two sons Giovanni and Aldo took over at the winery. Operations were put on hold due to WWII, though vinification kicked back up in 1958. However, Aldo Conterno had a different vision for winemaking than his brother. While Giovanni preferred the classic regional style, Aldo gravitated towards a more modern approach to Barolo, which caused the two to part ways in 1969. For Giovanni, making wines in the style of father and grandfather wasn’t just a preference, but an act of tradition.

Although the Conternos sourced fruit for many years during the 20th century, the family purchased a 14-hectare vineyard in Cascina Francia back in 1974 and has used estate fruit since. The first vintage of these precious wines were released to the market in 1978 (collectors, should this vintage come your way, definitely jump!)

Today, Giovanni’s son Roberto Conterno (third-generation) now heads the estate. Giovanni worked tirelessly along Roberto’s side until his death in 2004, and he’d certainly be proud of what Roberto has brought to the table. A traditionalist (and perfectionist) at heart, Roberto is a quiet and humble man, yet his wines speak loudly of the place from which they come. He meticulously follows the Conterno way of producing Baroli, which incorporates long macerations and extensive aging in lark oak botti. ‘Entry-level’ bottlings age for a minimum of four years, while the Monfortino cuvées age for six to seven — which is actually a step towards modernity, as these wines used to age for 10+ years under Giovanni’s reign. It’s this meticulous attention to detail and persistent passion for tradition that set Conterno wines apart from the rest.

In 2008, the Conternos added a plot from the Cerretta vineyard (Serralunga) to their holdings, followed by a plot in Arione seven years later. These single-vineyard Baroli, as well as the Monfortino Riserva, are easily some of the most sought after bottles of Nebbiolo in the world. These wines hold an unbelievable ability to bring history to life through transcending their drinker to the time and place in which they were crafted, mostly through an honesty and purity that is unmistakingly Conterno. For those on a budget, the Conternos also offer a relatively affordable solution. In addition to their Nebbiolo-based wines, the family vinifies a Barbera dAlba that is sold at a significantly lower price point. Their Barbera comes from Cascina Francia and Cerretta and is aged for two years in large oak botti.

In addition to their historical plots, the family also cultivates an experimental vineyard dedicated to massale selection varieties, which are studied for potential future plantings. Roberto has also invested in world-class destemmers and machinery to help him create the best wines possible. He’s also enlisted the help of a TCA-identifying machine that evaluates every cork at his winery for taint prior to use, which has significantly minimized the number of flawed bottles produced at the winery.

Moral of the story, tradition (with bits of modernity smattered in) reigns king at this epic Monfortino-based estate, where quality, ageworthiness, and meticulous attention to detail are never in lack. For cream of the crop Piedmont, look no further than the Conterno name.

Giacomo Conterno

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