Fantino, who lives in the center of the town, makes Barolo, barbera and a bit of vino da tavola, vinifying the wines in stainless steel in his tiny fermentation cellar. He told me that the 20 days of maceration for his Barolo are mostly taken up by the fermentation, and that he presses quickly after the alcoholic has finished. He then keeps the wines in tank for another two months or so for the malolactic fermentations to take place. Elevage is done in a combination of barriques and large oak uprights, although I noticed that Fantino still had some '98 Barolo in a stainless steel tank. Fantino described his winemaking philosophy succinctly:"We make wine that we like. We hope others like it and buy it. "(Robert Chadderdon Selections, New York, NY)

1999 Alessandro & Gian Natale Fantino Barolo Vigna dei Dardi

($60) Good medium red. Aromas of plum, licorice, tar and herbs; hints at syrupy superripeness without coming across as decadent. Then lush and rich in the mouth; soft in the middle but maintains good verve. Very full, smooth, elegantly styled Barolo, with near-roasted notes of plum and tar. Finishes with big but fine tannins and very good chocolatey persistence.


2000 Alessandro & Gian Natale Fantino Barolo Vigna dei Dardi

($60) Medium red, less saturated than the 1999. Complex aromas of plum, cedar, marzipan, tobacco leaf, mint, leather and woodsmoke; less deep than the 1999. Sweet and easygoing, with harmonious acidity. Comes off as more evolved than the 1999, with a bit less thrust, but Fantino maintains that the wine's sweetness is currently hiding its structure. Finishes with dusty, building, slightly rustic tannins and good length.


2001 Alessandro & Gian Natale Fantino Barolo Vigna dei Dardi

(sampled from tank) Good deep red. Liqueur-like raspberry and rose petal on the confectionery, perfumed nose. This has wonderful fruit in the mouth, with a lovely creaminess of tex ture but also firm grip. Floral, rich and sweet, but not yet expansive. "Not yet complete" is the way Fantino describes this still-young vintage. Should prove to be the best of the '99-'01 trio.


1998 Alessandro & Gian Natale Fantino Barolo Vigna dei Dardi Riserva

($70) Good deep red, the darkest wine I tasted with Fantino. Rather reticent but pure aromas of black fruits, kirsch, mint, tar and licorice. Fat and sweet but at the same time rather medicinal, even hard, today. Shows lovely retention of fruit, but in a cooler, more minty style. Finishes with broad, slightly dry tannins and very good length. In need of four or five years of patience. (Incidentally, I sampled some '98 riserva that was still in vat. This wine showed a more obvious, even somewhat roasted, sweetness but also seemed quite tannic.)

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