The Giacomo Conterno winery is renowned for its quintessential “traditional” Barolos that are rich, profound, and capable of aging beautifully in the bottle.
Why are these wines so special, and which bottles should you buy in 2021?
What’s the secret behind the longevity of these powerful Nebbiolo wines?
Let’s explore the history, winemaking, best wines, investment potential, and of course, the smartest way to invest in these iconic wines.
This Article Contains
(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)
- The Quintessence of Barolo in Giacomo Conterno
- The Early Days of Giacomo Conterno and Monfortino
- Crafting the Profound Wines of Giacomo Conterno
- Masterly Giacomo Conterno Vintages to Buy in 2021
- 1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino
- 2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino
- 2010 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino
- 2010 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Francia
- 2016 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Arione
- 2013 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cerretta
- 2018 Giacomo Conterno Vigna Francia Barbera d'Alba
- 1964 Giacomo Conterno Barbaresco
The Quintessence of Barolo in Giacomo Conterno
Giacomo Conterno is one of the greatest Barolo producers, with an estate located just outside Monforte d’Alba in Piedmont, Italy.
The Conterno family has been creating earthy, powerful, superbly long-lived traditional Barolo for three generations. Their most iconic wines are the Cascina Francia, and Monfortino Riserva produced from the Nebbiolo grape.
The Monfortino is regarded as one of today’s finest Barolo and considered by many as the greatest Nebbiolo wine in the world.
Tales of this iconic Piemonte winery usually begin with winemaker Giacomo Conterno, the estate’s namesake.
But let’s step back a little and take a look at its origins.
The Early Days of Giacomo Conterno and Monfortino
In 1908 Giacomo’s father, Giovanni Conterno, opened a tavern in San Giuseppe and made Barolo wine to supply to the business. Back then, Barolo was meant for early drinking and was typically sold in a cask or demijohn.
When his son Giacomo returned from World War I, Giacomo wanted to make Barolo that ages longer.
Giacomo’s first vintage, the 1920 Barolo Riserva, was named the Monfortino in honor of his home village, Monforte d’Alba. It was one of the first producer-bottled Barolos of that time.
For the next few decades, Giacomo made two Barolos the same way. It was always from purchased grapes with a difference in fermentation method and the time spent in cask.
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Unlocking a World of Possibilities in the Vineyards of Giacomo Conterno
Giacomo Conterno ran the winery until his death in 1961. His sons, Giovanni and Aldo, worked together until Aldo left in 1969 to start his own estate Poderi Aldo Conterno.
In 1974, Giovanni Conterno acquired the Cascina Francia Vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba. He planted Nebbiolo vine plants in the Cascina Francia vineyard.
The first vintage from the Cascina Francia Vineyard was the legendary 1978, and that’s when the estate’s reputation began to rise.
Giovanni no longer purchased grapes, relying on about 9 hectares of Nebbiolo to produce the Monfortino Riserva and regular Barolo Cascina Francia. The Cascina Francia vineyard also dedicated about 5 hectares to the Barbera varietal to make an incredible Barbera wine.
Interestingly, although the 1978 'regular' Barolo was made with Cascina Francia’s grapes, the vineyard’s name didn’t appear on the bottle label until the 1979 vintage.
Giovanni’s son, Roberto Conterno, took charge in 2003.
In 2009, Roberto acquired a plot in the prized Cerretta vineyard to produce Langhe Nebbiolo wine. Then in 2015, Conterno purchased the Arione cru to the south of Serralunga d’Alba.
Let’s look at what makes Conterno Barolo different.
Crafting the Profound Wines of Giacomo Conterno
The biggest difference between the two main Barolo cuvees is temperature control and aging.
1. Monfortino Riserva
The flagship Riserva Barolo Monfortino is made only in exceptional vintages using the choicest parcels from the Cascina Francia vineyard, shortly before harvest.
The best parcels can vary from vintage to vintage. So, only if a parcel quality is significantly better than the rest, will the grape selection be vinified separately in open-top vats.
The wine macerates on the skins for up to five weeks with no temperature control, regardless of how high fermentation temperatures can rise. It is then aged at least seven years in botti (large oak casks) before bottling.
2. Barolo Cascina Francia
The Barolo Cascina Francia is macerated on the skin for 3-4 weeks at controlled temperatures under 30oC.
It’s then aged for four years in botti before bottling. Starting with the 2010 vintage, this Barolo is labeled as just “Francia” to comply with the new standardization of Barolo cru’ names.
Winemaking Innovations at Giacomo Conterno
Production at the Conterno winery is limited, with around 20,000 bottles of Barbera and Cascina Francia Barolo made in a satisfactory vintage. And only about 7000 bottles of Monfortino are produced in exceptional years.
- This Piedmont winery crafts their Conterno wines in an ultra-traditional style, with long maceration followed by extended aging in the large botti. This winemaking method is used to avoid excessive vanillin sweetness.
- Roberto Conterno also used modern winery or winemaking methods like using systematic sorting, gentler destemming equipment, and a modern bottling line.
- He worked with cork manufacturers to develop a marking system for corked bottles — where each cork has an identifying code that follows its provenance and efficacy.
This system helps a machine to detect traces of cork taint and deviations in the cork structure that affect its ability to seal.
For 45 years, Giovanni Conterno forged a reputation as one of the finest Barolo makers. Roberto continues his father’s incredible work ethic, and it won’t be wrong to say that Roberto Conterno has taken the wines to even greater heights!
So, which fine Conterno wine should you consider collecting?
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Masterly Giacomo Conterno Vintages to Buy in 2021
The winemaker’s attention to detail draws the best from Conterno wines, though some vintages are better than others. The greatest vintages include 1964, 1971, 1978, 1990, 1996, 1999 and 2001.
Here are the bottles you should look out for.
1. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino 1990
This Barolo Monfortino displays a youthful nose of black fruit, fruitcake, licorice, tar, mint, and dark spices. There are layers of concentration, bright acidity, noticeable tannin levels, and a lengthy finish.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino 1990: $2010+
2. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2001
This 2001 Monfortino Riserva received 99 points from wine critic Antonio Galloni. It displays layers of sweet fruit that flow across the palate. Hints of sweet red berries, roses, licorice, and spice infuse a deep, resonant finish.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2001: $1328+
3. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2010
The fantastic 2010 Monfortino received a 100 points from Robert Parker of Wine Advocate. This wine has tremendous depth, tasting of kirsch, rose petal, with hints of leather and mocha.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2010: $1740+
4. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Francia 2010
The 2010 Francia vintage has a nose of dark cherries, tar, roses, tobacco, and sage. Rich on the palate, it’s concentrate and textured, with a perfect balance of acidity, sweet fruit, and tannin.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Francia 2010: $450+
5. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Arione 2016
This Arione Barolo has a wild, feral quality that reflects notes of iron and mineral. A red fruit profile combined with floral overtones drives to a long, austere finish.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Arione 2016: $300+
6. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cerretta 2013
The exquisite 2013 vintage from the Cerretta cru is a haunting, seductive Barolo with aromas of rose petal, mint, sweet tobacco, and licorice. This stunning wine constantly changes in the glass, with beams of tannin that carry the flavors through to the finish.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cerretta 2013: $310+
7. Giacomo Conterno Vigna Francia Barbera d'Alba 2018
This expressive Barbera is an explosion of floral, mineral, and savory notes. It has dark fruits, strong savory undertones, making a beautifully layered wine that unfolds with grace over time.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Vigna Francia Barbera d'Alba 2018: $60+
8. Giacomo Conterno Barbaresco 1964
Still youthful, this 1964 Barbaresco displays a nose of dry red cherries, nutmeg, sweet spices, and hints of earth. It’s concentrated on a rustic palate, with bright acidity and a long, dry cherry-driven finish.
Price of Giacomo Conterno Barbaresco 1964: $340+
While long lifespan is a strong factor, are Conterno wines a good investment option?
Investing in Giacomo Conterno Cuvees
Giacomo Conterno has held a strong position in the fine wine market for some time, and that is no surprise. Their Barolo wines are characterized by
- Extremely low production
- Single vineyard vintages
- Vast aging potential, typically 20-50 years
- High critics’ scores
- A cult following that ensures marketability
In the first quarter of 2020, the 2013 Riserva Monfortino topped the list of most traded wines by value (according to Liv-Ex.) In 2017, three Barolo Cascina Francia vintages featured in the top ten price performers.
Giacomo Conterno is no doubt a wine that investors should earmark for their portfolios. Some of the popular investment vintages are the 2006, 2010, and 2013 Riserva Monfortino.
However, the scarce, age-worthy Conterno Barolo is not one that you’ll find in just any fine wine store.
If you want to add this Piedmontese powerhouse to your collection, you’ll have plenty of scouring to do to find the right prices, get authentication, insurance, and storage.
Is there an easier solution?
Letting Vinovest help you is a smart choice, not only to buy Giacomo Conterno but any fine wine you want.
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Find Perfection in Conterno’s Classic Barolo!
Great wine comes not only from meticulous winemaking, but also from the heart of the winemaker who aspires for perfect liquid expression of the grape. The Barolo wines of Conterno have been tried and tested over the century, continuing to enthrall Barolo lovers with its stunning, expressive depths.
This is a wine that deserves your attention and an esteemed spot in your cellars.
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