History of the Estate:
In the 19th century, the forefathers of Aldo Conterno emigrated to Argentina, but on account of various family vicissitudes they returned to Italy after a few years. It was then that Giovanni Conterno brought his family back to the small winemaking farm of his father Giuseppe in Monforte d'Alba and started helping him in the production of local wine. With his return to the business, Conterno increased the production of wine, to be sold in casks not only in Piemonte and Liguria but also as far as America, thanks to a relative who had stayed out in Argentina. In response to market demand, the Conternos then felt the need to create a superior Barolo, to be produced exclusively from the best vintages, with a long vinification period and capable of lasting over time. In the 1920s the first Barolo reserve was bottled. At the end of the '30s Giovanni handed over the reins of the business to his son, Giacomo, who continued his father's tradition with commitment and foresight, visiting his clients in person and taking advantage of the prestige which Barolo was gathering to establish his own label in many regions of Italy. During these years, his sons Giovanni and Aldo began to assist and follow their father in running the business. In the mid-'50s Aldo decided to set out for America, with the ambition of creating a vine-growing and winemaking business with the help of an uncle who lived in California. This period in the United States turned out to be very constructive and unforgettable for Aldo but for a variety of reasons he had to abandon the country and come back home to his family business in Italy. Giacomo handed over the activity to his sons in 1961: it was a thriving and prestigious business in the Langhe zone, recognised over most of the country.
However, the five-year experience in the United States had kindled within Aldo a desire to establish a business of his own. It was for this reason that he decided, after working for a considerable time alongside his brother, to carry out the dream which had been interrupted in America. He bought the "Favot" farm and founded the estate "Poderi Aldo Conterno" in 1969 and had by the late 1980s already established a house of formidable reputation (and inspiration). There is a strong contrast between the two men; Giovanni is staunchly traditionalist, and continues to turn out benchmark Barolo under the Giacomo Conterno label, whereas Aldo is a more affable character, well known, liked and respected in the region. His wines are fine examples of the Nebbiolo grape, and although they differ in style from those of his brother, it would be wrong to describe them as anything other than traditional Barolo. Aldo Conterno operates from Bussia, in the village Monforte d'Alba, at the heart of the Barolo region. Aldo, now aided by his three sons Franco, Stefano and Giacomo, tends 25 hectares of vines which for the most part surround the family home. This vineyard sits at an altitude of around 400 m, with a terroir of calcareous marl alternating with layers of sand. There are also, however, three cru vineyards on the famed Bussia slope in Monforte d'Alba, one of the jewels of the Barolo vineyards. These three are Romirasco, Cicala and Colonnello, south and southwest facing slopes on clay-calcareous soils, peppered with elements of iron, and the fruit harvested here gives rise to the estate's three single vineyard flagship wines, although they may also be blended into a single bottling depending on the quality of the vintage.
Aldo Conterno is one of what is perhaps Barolo's premier winemaking dynasty. Aldo Conterno possesses a true Italian country gentleman's unpretentious and friendly manner, a simplicity which cannot disguise his innate broadmindedness and great professional competence.
Form the 25 hectares that the Conterno family owns, 10 different wines are produced.
It starts with their Dolcetto called Il Masante. It is from different vineyards in Bussia (Monforte d'Alba). No oak ageing here as the Dolcetto wine is refined in stainless steel vats in order to maintain it as fruity as possible. However, it is a wine with good body and structure and so it can age.
Their Barbera d'Alba is the next step up. Named Conca Tre Pile as it is from the vineyard so named in Bussia (Monforte d'Alba). The "Conca Tre Pile" is a hilly area in Bussia Soprana whose main vines are Barbera with vineyards having a maximum age of 45 years. The wine spends 12 months in 100% new wood barriques. This is a benchmark Barbera.
The next offering is their Langhe Rosso. An unusual blend of Freisa 80%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%, Merlot 10%. Grapes are from different vineyards in Bussia. After 6 months in stainless steel the wine then spends a further 6 months in barriques. Freisa is an indigenous grape to the area and possibly underexploited as a variety- as this wine shows the pleasure that can be gained from it if it is made well.
The only white offering from the estate is the Bussiador Chardonnay Langhe, which is also from different vineyards in Bussia. It receives 12 months in new barriques, which assists in creating a wine with good structure and good body, and so it can be aged for a long time.
The range of Barolos begins with their "entry-level" Barolo. Besides the obvious Nebbiolo make up of the wine, small amounts of Michet and Lampia varieties are also used. This is probably the most widely seen and appreciated wine. It comes from sites other than the three so called "cru" vineyards, with vines aged at least 20 years.
Then there are the "cru" vineyards (Romirasco, Cicala and Colonnello) located in Bussia of Monforte d'Alba, which portray the real expression of Langhe terroir. Their fabulous South South-West location enhances the nobility of the clayey-calcareous soil, rich with calcium carbonate and iron, typical of our hills. The Conterno family has always had a relationship of perfect symbiosis with these crus, trying to enhance all their most unique characteristics through wise and hard work in the vineyard.
All the fruit for these three wines are vinified using temperature controlled stainless steel vats, followed by large, traditional Slavonian oak casks. All the Barolos are aged exclusively in large Slavonian oak casks- for between 28 and 30 months. In terms of vineyard age, the Romirasco vines are about 50 years of age, the Cicala ("balm-cricket") are a similar age and the lastly the Colonnello's vines are 35-40 years old. One of the challenges is keeping the barrels perfectly clean, so each year they recondition the casks by scraping out the part of the oak that has been in contact with the wine. This practice explains the presence of new oak flavors in the wines when they are young.
Last but certainly not least is the Barolo Granbussia. A blend of the three Bussia cru vineyards, in proportions usually approximating to 70% Romirasco with 15% each of Cicala and Colonnello, depending on the vintage. The wines are fermented and aged in wood separately, before blending in stainless steel where it is held for up to two years, and subsequent bottling. It will then be held back in the cellar for six years before release. Granbussia was first produced in a test version in 1970. The first commercial release was 1971. The early vintages of Granbussia were made predominantly from the Cicala and Colonnello vineyards. A small addition of 10-15% fruit from the Romirasco vineyard was added to the blend, but the family chose not to feature this vineyard as it was the only plot they rented at the time and their ability to continue to source fruit was always a question mark. In 1980 Conterno acquired Romirasco as well and the vineyard subsequently became the main component of the wine. Beginning with the 1982 Conterno began using same blend of 70% Romirasco, 15% Cicala and 15% Colonnello for the Granbussia that is used today. Of these terroirs Cicala is the poorest and therefore yields the sturdiest wines. Colonnello lies just a few meters from the border with neighboring Barolo. It has a higher percentage of sand and gives the most delicate wines. Romirasco contains a blend of both soil types. The wines naturally exhibit a combination of the structure of Cicala with the finesse of Colonnello. Granbussia is only made in vintages in which all three vineyards give outstanding results. For example, 2004 was a great vintage, but Cicala was hit by hail, so there will be no 2004 Granbussia.Granbussia spends three years in oak. It is then moved to stainless steel for two years, a practice that, as far as I know, is unique among Barolo producers. "We aim to make wines that have plenty of primary aromatics and fruit," explains Giacomo Conterno.