The Conternos made no wines in 2002, and there will be no Barolo crus in 2003. "It was too hot for nebbiolo in Barolo; the best sites were fried by the sun, and the grapes had no acidity," said Giacomo Conterno, who with his brothers Stefano and Franco assists father Aldo, "but 2003 was a great year for barbera. "Incidentally, Giacomo assured me that there was no truth to the rumor that this estate was for sale. The story arose when the local edition of the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that actor Gerard Depardieu was seeking to buy a Barolo estate in the Monforte area, even though the article did not name names. "It was good publicity for us, free advertising," noted Aldo Conterno. Aldo emphasized that although his estate is often described as increasingly modernist in orientation, "we are always traditional with Barolo; it's our other wines we experiment with," said Aldo. "We already have noble, smooth Barolo tannins, and we don't like sweet wood tannins. "(Vias Imports, New York, NY)
($36; 14.5%; the Conternos sold off their chardonnay from Bussiador, as it was carrying an unwieldy 15.6% alcohol) Hints of exotic fruits along with flowers and mint on the nose. Fat, rich and full for this wine, with notes of mint, hay and bubblegum. But a bit obviously warm, and lacking clarity and cut.
($59; 14.5% alcohol) Medium yellow color. Pineapple and coconutty oak on the nose. Fat, dense and rich but fresh, with a concentrated pineapple flavor complicated by minerals and honey. Plum p and palate-caressing wine with good retention of fresh fruit. Fermented and aged in barriques This will still benefit from a year or so in bottle.
($24) Good dark red. Cher ry, raspberry and a note of spice on the fresh if rather straightforward nose. Sweet, juicy and fruity, with sound acids and modest flesh. Not particularly complex but nicely balanced. Finishes with slightly dusty tannins. From the same vines as the wine previously labeled Dolcetto d'Alba.
($40; aged in 70% new barriques for 12 months following fermentation in stainless steel, up from 50% previously) Red-ruby. Crushed red berries, black cherry, licorice, flowers, nuts, mint and spicy oak on the nose. Juicy, fruit-driven and nicely del ineated, with sappy acidity contributing to the impression of cut. The oak spice adds complexity but does not dominate the wine. Finishes quite juicy, with very smooth tannins. "We look for acidity and freshness in this wine, not overconcentration," notes Giacomo.
($60; a blend of 50% nebbiolo, 20% each cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and 10% barbera; aged for 18 months in all new barriques Good dark red. Pure, complex aromas of redcurrant, cherry, tobacco, minerals and mint, with a woodsy nebbiolo component. Lush and silky, with harmonious acidity framing the wine's fresh fruit flavors. Nicely balanced wine in a distinctly elegant style; happily, the cabernet sauvignon and merlo t components do not dominate the blend. Finishes with fine, powdery tannins.
($85; alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel, then malo and aging in all new barriques Medium red. Floral aromas of red cherry and raspberry, with a piqua nt minty nuance. Juicy, fresh and pure, with varietally accurate strawberry and raspberry flavors. Penetrating, firmly tannic nebbiolo in need of another year or two in the bottle. Finishes with slightly astringent but fine nebbiolo tannins. Excellent modern-style nebbiolo.
($96) Medium red. Very fresh nose for the year: cherry, rose petal, cinnamon and a woodsy note. Sweet, lush and creamy on the palate, with ripe red fruit flavors lifted by spices. Finishes with fine, powdery tannins and very good length. "This is almost ready to drink right now but should also keep for 10 or 15 years," notes Giacomo, adding that this is a perfect style of wine for restaurants. Long on flavor.
($139) Medium red with a hint of amber. Quintessential Barolo perfume of dried flowers, nuts and forest floor. Then fresher and more obviously structured than the basic Bussia Soprana bottling, with more thrust and flavor definition. Rich, deep and firmly tannic, but the Cicala is even more solid.
($139; from an especially steep part of the Bussia Soprana vineyard) Fresh medium red color. Cool, chalky aromas of red cherry, licorice, minerals and chocolate. Dense, chewy and sappy, with superb inner-mouth energy and floral character. Conveys a strong impression of soil tones. The longest of these 2000s, finishing impressively chewy, firmly tannic and palate-staining. Transcends the vintage. These vines were picked earlier than those used to make the basic Bussia Soprana wine.
($214; bottled in 2002) Full medium red. Reticent but highly nuanced nose combines hints of superripe red berries, minerals, truffle, mocha and tar. Rich, thick and velvety, with superb ripeness supported by underlying minerality. Wonderfully dense Barolo, at once round and solid. Very long, slow-mounting finish features big, broad, horizontal tannins. Giacomo told me that this wine "kills" all the 2000s.
($96) Medium red. Classic, pure aromas of minerals, white truffle, tobacco and damp earth, lifted by a floral nuance. Offers terrific energy and verve in the mouth, with its sweetness nicely leavened by sappy, harmonious acidity. Finishes very long and juicy, with wonderfully smooth, silky tannins and vibrant notes of fruits and minerals.
($139) Good full medium red. Highly nuanced nose of red berries, minerals, flowers, spices, underbrush and caramel. Then juicy and tight in the mouth, with very brisk, firm flavors of red berries and minerals. At once superripe and gripping. Perhaps a bit uncharacteristically structured and closed for this bottling, owing to its excellent acidity and tightly wound tannins. Slow-building finish is long and perfumed.
($139) Medium red. Quintessential Barolo perfume: minerals, tobacco, underbrush, tar, licorice, gunflint. Then wonderfully rich and seamless in the mouth, with superb concentration and purity of flavor. Spicy red fruits emerged with aeration. Comes across, atypically, as less clenched in the early going than the Colonnello and strikingly complex from the outset, but this is nonetheless extremely young. Finishes with extremely suave tannins and vibrant lingering fruit. Great wine in the making.
($214) Medium red. Pure but reticent aromas of minerals and spices, with a deep woodsy sweetness. Then dense, lush and silky but youthfully backward. This powerfully minerally, spicy wine boasts fruit of steel. Finishes with big, broad, strong tannins and great length and grip. A classic Barolo in need of a good decade of additional cellaring.