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 of barrique 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 typical for nebbiolo. "(Vignaioli Selections, New York, NY)
(aged five months in large casks) Good bright red. Fruit-driven aromas of cherry, redcurrant and leather. Sweet and impressively concentrated; very ripe but not cooked. A rich, chewy wine with a plump middle and moderate nuance. Boasts sound acidity and good length, finishing with a slight leathery rusticity.
($25) Good deep red-ruby. Medicinal black cherry, minerals and mint on the rather cool nose. Juicy, tight and pure if rather ungiving, 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.
($36) 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 tex ture. Finishes with sweet, dusty tannins and a slight youthful bitter edge.
($75) 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.
($75; tasted from 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.
($75) Medium red with an amber rim. Aromatically expressive aromas of dried rose, truffle, underbrush and tobacco. Silky on entry, then uncompromisingly dry and distinctly closed in the 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.
($85; my sample bottle was pulled right off the bottling line) 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 1999 normale-or is it simply that this wine has not yet been affected by the bottling? Finishes with dusty, broad tannins and excellent length.