Consumers who enjoy the wines of Aldo Conterno would do well to pick up this estate’s excellent 2001s. This perfectionist producer has bottled none of his 2002s and will release only a few of his 2003s including a single bottling of Barolo. “2003 was just too hot. When temperatures go above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Farenheit) without respite, the plants shut down and the seeds don’t ripen fully. If the fruit is harvested too soon, the wines retain these green, hard tannins which can be quite unpleasant,” explains Giacomo Conterno, Aldo’s son. Turning more upbeat, Conterno says “I do think 2004 has all the ingredients to be a great year.”
“In my opinion, it should be possible to tell if a wine is balanced and well-made as soon as it is in the bottle,” says Conterno. “Of course a young Barolo will be tannic, and in need of bottle age to reach its maximum expression, but the idea that a Barolo should be tough and inaccessible when young, and need 30 years to reach greatness is absurd. I want to make Barolos that will be delicious after 4-5 years, and that will continue to improve for decades after that.”
In terms of winemaking, the house style is divided along two lines. “When it comes to Barolo we have been traditionalists for five generations. We try to interfere as little as possible in the cellar in order to exalt the differences in the terroirs we work with,” explains Conterno. The estate’s four Barolos are vinified in the same manner. The wines are fermented in horizontal fermenters, “which are different from the more violent rotary fermenters explains Conterno. Fermentation and maceration lasts 2-3 weeks, depending on the vintage. The wines are then aged in Slavonian oak casks ranging from 25 to 75 hectoliters, which are changed every 15-18 years. Selected yeasts are not used. The wines are very approachable, even in a structured vintage such as 2001, and tend to show a lot of sweet fruit in their youths as well as notes of spices and vanilla that suggest at least some new oak. These are very clean and polished wines of great elegance. A distinctly more modern approach is taken with the other wines, such as the Chardonnay Bussiador, Langhe Favot and Langhe Quartetto, all of which are aged in 100% new barriques and come across as quite contemporary.