To say that the last few vintages have been a challenge for this domaine would be an understatement. The estate did not produce any Barolo in 2002. Then came the scorching 2003 vintage. “Ideally Nebbiolo needs an alternation of temperatures during the summer and fall. During the day the plants develop their sugars, and then when the temperatures cool off in the evening the plants synthesize their perfumes and tannins. 2003 was just too hot for Barolo. Initially I though we would release a single bottling made from our best fruit but when I tasted the wine it was cooked, and marmalade is not what I want to taste in a Barolo. We decided to de-classify our 2003 Nebbiolos and sold the wine in bulk. We did much better in 2003 with our Nebbiolo Favot, which is made from our youngest vines. As you know, when plants are young they produce many more leaves than older vines. In 2003 the extra cover from these leaves helped keep our grapes from burning on the vines, and the resulting wine is surprisingly well-balanced for the vintage, although ultimately the most successful varietal in the vintage was unquestionably Barbera,” explains Giacomo Conterno.
Unfortunately the estate’s run of bad luck continued in 2004. The Cicala vineyard was damaged by hail, so there will be no Barolo from this vineyard nor will there be a Riserva Granbussia, which typically contains 15% Cicala fruit in the blend. Instead the fruit from Romirasco, which makes up the core of Granbussia, will be bottled separately for the first time since 1993. In the meantime, readers will have to make do with the Barolos that are already on the market as well as newer releases of more accessible wines in the line. Fortunately there is a lot to admire in these wines.
When it comes to vintages Conterno says “I am a traditionalist, so my preference among current vintages is 2001, 1999, and 2000. I am a big believer in 1999. It is a classic vintage for long-lived wines. 1999 and 2000 remind me very much of 1989 and 1990. Early on most people loved the 1990s, and they are certainly beautiful wines, but today when we taste both vintages side-by-side in most cases the 1989s have held up better. While the wines may have been closed in their youths, all they needed was bottle age to express the true essence of Nebbiolo. The early enthusiasm over 2000 was similar to what we saw with the 1985s, where the early hype has proven over time to be exaggerated. 2001, on the other hand has some qualities of both vintages, along with an incredible amount of finesse, and I confess that in my heart I just love the 2001s.” (US Importer: Vias Imports, New York, NY)