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L' assaggiatore - 02 June 2016

Monfortino behind the scenes

L' assaggiatore - 02 June 2016
L' assaggiatore - 02 June 2016

» L' assaggiatore - 02 June 2016

Monfortino behind the scenes

I would like dedicate the anti-editorial of this issue to an extraordinary wine tasting proposed by Marco Manzoli, who wanted to commemorate, in his own unique way, the wine of Monfortino – starting off with a bottle from 1926 that was therefore 90 years old.


He also had a bottle from 1924 but it being the only one, he was hesitant to open it. In short, Manzoli, as a collector and connoisseur, has many more examples of each vintage than are present in this tasting. Indeed, one hears stories of bottles also from 1922, but, in fact, it was 1924 when the wine produced by Giacomo Conterno first appeared on the market. It is as old as the first radio signals in Italy, belonging to an era of clashes and conflicts, the rise of fascism, the difficulties in emerging out of the first World War. But, above all, an age in which the best Italian wines were few and far between, and the great majority of them were not bottled but sold in casks or demijohns, and consumed almost entirely in the place of production.

Monfortino was the first ‘rural’ wine to rise to fame, at least on a national level. It was called Barolo Extra, then ‘Vino Monfortino' and everything went smoothly up until the early 60s. Only then did it become Barolo Riserva Monfortino, the name by which we know it today. First Giacomo, and then his son Giovanni (Aldo, the second child, who had emigrated to the United States when he was only 20, would eventually return to Italy to set up his very own estate) wanted to proudly emphasize the origin of the wine from this region.

An exceptional wine right from the get-go, being blessed with an almost embarrassing longevity. In fact it was this extraordinary longevity that embroiled Giovanni in a legal dispute. An incompetent magistrate, on the basis of an erroneous analysis carried out by persons even more inept than him, contested the authenticity of the 1964 vintage. It would have been enough to admit the misdemeanor and the sentence would have been reduced in seriousness to a minor violation, punishable only by a small fine. Giovanni, a man of great principle, refused to cooperate. The wine was from ‘64 and he saw no reason why he should be incriminated for something he had not done. They condemned him and the newspapers of the day shamefully ripped him apart: they had unearthed the beast from its lair. When I later had the opportunity to get to know him, I was so struck by the anguish and bitterness that he still harbored that I wrote him a letter of solidarity – somewhat late in the day but nonetheless heartfelt for that. His touching reply moved me greatly. I understood the grandeur of his spirit. A true example of the noble ‘man of the soil’, besides being one of the greatest winemakers in the world.

After his passing, there remains his son Roberto; a man equally as meticulous as his father, sharing with him acertain Piedmontese discretion and reserve. I would like to think that this heartfelt tribute, made together with Marco Manzoli, would give Giovanni Conterno pleasure. After all, it is the story of a family told through the most prestigious wine they have ever produced.

Since 1985, first Giovanni, and then his son Roberto, have availed themselves of the advice and consultancy given by Professor Donato Lanati; more a friend of the family than a consultant. If Monfortino is such a legend today, the merit is due also, in part, to Donato Lanati.


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