One of the year’s most anticipated events was finally here. Roberto Conterno was coming to New York City, the first time in two years due to his new Nervi project in Gattinara (great wines by the way). And we had 38 vintages of Monfortino, Barolo’s greatest wine, on tap and ready to go at Legacy Records. There are few people in the wine world as intensely passionate and amicably knowledgeable as Roberto Conterno. He is precise and confident in his expertise, as he should be. He is one of the wine world’s greatest winemakers.
Legacy At Legacy
I actually almost missed the event. I had just come back from Hong Kong, and I had to fly again to New York two or three days later, I can’t remember exactly. I do remember that I had to take a nap, but I neglected to turn on my alarm after setting it and collapsing late in the afternoon. Next think I know, it was 730pm; thank God I woke up! Sir Robert and Hamburger had been texting me like crazy. I was on the way!
I had arrived after the first flight and tried to catch up quickly. Vintage Tastings alums BJ, Diamonds, Wild Bill and Jetski were holding it down in the meantime. Everyone was given a Sensory glass to taste with. This is another one of Roberto’s pet projects; creating the perfect wine glass, and I have to say that he did it. The Sensory wine glass truly enhances the wine drinking experience. I did a study with Roberto at his winery in Piedmont the previous summer tasting his glass versus others. His glass delivered more aromas, more flavors and a better experience than all the rest. This is yet another testament to his passion and genius.
|2006 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(97)|
|2005 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(93)|
|2004 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96)|
|2002 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96+)|
|2001 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
|2000 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96)|
The 2006 was so rich and sweet and amazing in the glass. The 2005got blown off by BJ, who called it ‘a waste of time.’ I missed comments on the 2004, but I got all excited about the 2002, a truly unexpected ‘wow’ wine. It was great and gritty and such a champion of the vintage, which was a quite difficult one in Europe in general. The 2001 drank a bit dry, but it was still outstanding. The 2000 had all the richness I wanted, with lots of dark cherry and charcoal flavors. Surprisingly, it was better than the ’01! BJ ranked the flight ’02, ’04, ’00 finding the ’02 ‘ready to drink,’ and someone else seconded his ’02 emotion. We were all already in Nebbiolo sync.
|1999 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96+)|
|1998 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96)|
|1997 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(94)|
|1996 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(98+)|
|1995 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(93)|
|1993 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
The next flight had us again hitting many high notes. The 1999 was so tight; it was a brute and a beast of a wine. Deep, rich, dry and long, BJ still thought it would be ‘one of the wines’ for Monfortino eventually. There were a lot of raw materials here, but it wasn’t as showy as some of the other vintages. It was a bit shut down but still oh so there. The 1998 was also rich and showing a touch of earthiness. There was a great smack to its sweetness and tar flavors. This was another wow Monfortino, so tasty. BJ was quickly becoming my muse for the evening, calling it ‘acid driven.’ The 1997 was ‘reduced with a lot of fruit’ per Diamonds. It was more reserved than I expected yet riper on the palate with round fruits and roasted tannins. It seemed like it was ready to go and be drunk up in general. Diamonds found it ‘awesome.’ The 1996 was ‘benchmark Monfortino.’ This was classic and wound, with a finish that went as far as sound and light could travel. What a wine! Pittsy found the 1995 ‘resiny,’ and I found it a touch musky and fleshy. Roberto advised us that seven to ten-thousand bottles of Monfortino are made every year. The 1993 had more licorice and anise to it. It opened up into a rich, Burgundian wine. Pittsy found it ‘like a 1990,’ continuing the Burgundy thought process.
|1990 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(98)|
|1988 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(DQ)|
|1987 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(93)|
|1985 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
|1982 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(DQ)|
|1979 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
We had a couple of hiccups in the next flight, but none with the rockstar 1990. BJ called it a ‘monster’ in the most complimentary fashion. It was oily, rich and dark with tremendous structure. Someone called it a ‘Moby Dick of a wine.’ This brooding beast was a classic with great balance, zip, tar and leather. Sadly, the 1988 was oxidized and got the Italian boot from our night accordingly. I never see the 1987 vintage for Monfortino, which was nice and pleasant. It was a touch figgy with some citrus and beef flavors. It was tasty and ‘drinking now.’ The 1985 was a bit shy despite being more pheromonal. It had lots of desert action, avoiding the gamy qualities of some of the lesser vintages. Someone commented that it ‘should be as good as the ’90,’ but felt it wasn’t. I liked it. The 1982 was sadly corked. Roberto Conterno noted that the 1979 was ‘difficult to find because it was so approachable, so everyone drank it.’ There was an incredible, nutty nose here. It was just starting to show its maturity, and it was pretty delicious even though its palate was on the more elegant side. It was citrusy and ‘soulful’ per Pittsy, and BJ noted ‘bouillon.’
|1978 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(97)|
|1974 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
|1971 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(98)|
|1970 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(DQ)|
|1969 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
|1968 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96)|
Roberto shared with us how his family purchased the vineyards in Francia in 1974, and that the 1978 was the first vintage of Monfortino with Francia fruit in it. The 1978 had incredible density and richness. Diamonds joked that it ‘had some potential,’ a testament to its age-ability and youthful vigor. It had that great ’78 body and decadence. Its finish lifted the wine up, up and away. Roberto noted that he could always recognize the 1974 vintage due to its acidity. He added that ‘the acidity was now OK, but 20 years ago, it was impossible to drink.’ It was definitely very tangy and redolent with its citrus. This was a great ’74 with a tangy finish. The legendary 1971 was next and it didn’t disappoint. I thought the ’96, ’90, and ‘71 were siblings, all with amazing length and acid. The ‘71 was rich, leathery and long. BJ thought it was ‘super resolved,’ and Roberto thought it was ‘perfect, so why wait?’ It was very easy to drink despite still being so young, and ‘brilliant’ came from the crowd. The 1970 was DQ’d, meaning it was either corked or oxidized, but I didn’t write which one. The 1969 was quite pleasant with a little fresh, farm-iness and hay thing happening. There was a citrusy tang and something a little cocaine-ish to its palate. It was bright with lots of acidity and freshness. Maybe it was a touch lighter, but BJ and I liked the ‘lift’ the acidity gave it. The 1968 also had some farm action, but more on the horse side of things. There was great structure and tannins, and I thought it was right on the money for drinking as well. The sweet spot for Monfortino really bgins at age 40! Everyone was ooh-ing and aah-ing about the ’68 and ‘young again,’ ‘dead on’ and ‘gets better’ all came from the crowd.
|1967 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(97+A)|
|1964 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
|1961 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(98)|
|1958 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96)|
|1955 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(93A)|
|1952 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(95)|
|1949 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(DQ)|
|1947 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(96)|
Roberto shared with us that he ‘would always pick the 1967’ because it was always so delicious and drinkable. That must be why I never see it lol. The 1967 was so rich with loads of brown sugar. It seemed a little advanced and a touch cooked, but it had such great power and acidity. This is certainly the best kept secret in aged Monfortino! The 1964 was no slouch. It was more elegant and dry, on the citrusy side. It was outstanding stuff. Roberto began to discuss what separated his Monfortino from others, pointing out that it was a selection of fruit, fermentation at higher temperatures, and it had more years of aging before release. The 1961 is a known great vintage, and it was clearly in line with the other greats of ’96, ’90, and ’71 so far. It was terrifically rich and beefy, a real wow wine. It doesn’t get much better for Italian wine. I also thought the 1958 was brilliant with a smooth, great taste, loads of spice and an elegant finish. It had some celery soda goodness. The color on the 1955 was a little tea-like and cloudy but it had rich flesh. It was a bit faded with orange-y notes and lighter than the spectacular bottle I drank with BJ last year. It still wasn’t bad, but it was definitely affected. The 1952 was cheesy, elegant, nutty and rich, and I was liking it. BJ, Pittsy and Jetski all agreed. The 1949 was off and we moved quickly to the 1947, which was ‘a little deeper’ with a bit of veggie to it. Roberto thought that the ’47 was the ‘wine for him.’ Even though it had the color of tea, it wasn’t cloudy at all. It was nutty, fresh and pure, and still great thirty minutes later. We would soon find out that this is about as great as old Barolo can be.
|1945 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(93)|
|1943 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(92)|
|1941 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(DQ)|
|1937 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(DQ)|
|1934 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(DQ)|
|1929 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva||(94)|
I liked the 1945 which was round but not young. It was expressive and clean with an orange rind quality that made it drink a bit like a Sercial Madeira. ‘Butter’ came from the crowd. The 1943 was a little more oxidized but eventually became beautiful. The 1941 was Fino city in the unpleasant sherry way, and the 1937 and 1934 suffered similar problems. Barolos at this age are highly risky, and we were learning first hand. There was a similar oxidized sherry quality to the 1929, but it was more like a fino in an appropriately great and aged way. There was great sweetness and acidity here that supported this oxidized expression of Nebbiolo.
It was a most memorable evening with the always memorable Roberto Conterno. His Barolo Monfortino is without question one of the greatest wines in the world.
In Vino Veritas,