Located in the most northwestern area of Italy, Piedmont is bordered by Switzerland and France with the Alps and Maritime Alps surrounding two-thirds of the region. The seasons are some of the most extreme with abundant, winter snows and hot, arid summers. While ranked 7th in overall wine production, Piedmont boasts as the number one area for officially classified DOC-DOCG wines in Italy. There are no wines produced that have been designated IGT.
The most, noble vine is Nebbiolo from which the famous wines Barolo and Barbaresco are made-respectively producing 6 million and 2.5 million bottles each year, the quantities being small relative to many new world producers. Barolo has 3100 acres planted to vine in 11 communes. Barbaresco has just 1200 acres devoted to vine producing wine in 4 communes. Each commune has important cru vineyards reflecting the emphasis that Barolo and Barbaresco place on terroir. The key Cru sites of Barolo are within La Morra, Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d Alba. The major crus of Barbaresco are found in Barbaresco, Neive and Tresio. Tradition and superior craftsmanship have always been important facets of production, but in recent years the introduction of new technologies and techniques have elevated the quality and stature of these wines even further.
While Barolo and Barbaresco are the most noted wines, the fabulous Langhe blends, well known within the region, are growing in recognition outside of Italy . Often combining native grapes (sometimes with Cabernet and/or Merlot), these structured wines provide wonderful alternatives for earlier consumption. There are also numerous wines produced from native grapes that are rising stars in their own right. Not only beautifully made, they are less expensive values for everyday consumption. Barbera and Dolcetto are examples finding increasing popularity in the U.S. Finally, with the Asti DOCG being 2nd only to the Chianti appellation in terms of production, one must not overlook the Moscato d Asti—a lightly, frizzante, sparkler, it is not only a desert wine but can be enjoyed on its own or to begin a meal.
This classic Langhe winery, founded in 1982, testifies to the talent and vision of Claudio Conterno (vineyard manager and co-proprietor; left in picture 1 above) and his friend and partner, Guido Fantino (right in the picture), who styles the wines.
Like Claudio and Guido themselves, tradition and innovation are close friends at Conterno Fantino. French oak barriques and new wood marry Piedmont’s own, blockbuster structure, opulent, tightly knit texture, magnificent tannins and rich, layered flavors.
Today, the property comprises 64 acres under vine. It is in the vineyards – under Claudio’s careful tutelage – that the quality cycle truly begins.
Conterno Fantino’s initial nucleus is cru Ginestra: a historical one for Barolo, documented as far back as the 1800s.
In 1989, Guido and Claudio acquired terrain from the nearby area of Bricco Bastia, within the commune of Monforte d’Alba, where they eventually built a state-of-the-art new winery inaugurated in 1994.
The new location is scenically set, dominating the most ancient section of Monforte and overlooked by the majestic sweep of the Alps all around (see photo 3 above).
The subsequent decade continued in the same vein: cru by cru, with an aim towards expressing the individual terroirs fully and faithfully.
Another addition to the property is Parussi, a Barolo cru from Castiglione Falletto (rather than Monforte d’Alba), renowned for its elegance.
The calcareous/arenaceous soil of Castiglione Falletto endows the wine with a softer, slightly more forward style and sweeter tannins, albeit within the customary, sumptuous structure that characterizes Conterno Fantino.
Total production today is 130,000 bottles yearly.
This 50% Nebbiolo, 40% Barbera, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon has been called “one of the very finest of all Langa blends”: an enormous, full-bodied, tightly knit beauty aged in new oak barriques for approximately 18 months.