Aldo Conterno is one of Piedmont’s most noted producers of Barolo. The 25-acre estate is in Monforte d’Alba, in northwestern Italy, and was founded in 1969 when Aldo Conterno returned from a few years spent in California working in an uncle’s vineyard. Though the Conterno family had been in the wine business for more than a century, Aldo picked up new ideas about winemaking in California. Today the winery is run by his sons and produces 120,000 bottles of wine a year, virtually all Barolo. Aldo Conterno is credited with being one of the earliest Piedmont winemakers to start producing more elegant, age-worthy Barolos. Gambero Rosso, Italy’s leading wine journal, notes that the estate’s mix of traditional and more modern winemaking results in “great wines.”
Barolo is one of Italy’s greatest wine appellations. In fact many cognoscenti of Italian wines consider Barolo to be the apex of Italian winemaking. Barolo is sometimes referred to as “the king of wines, and the wine of kings” partly because until the mid-19th century Piedmont was owned by the noble House of Savoy, the historic rulers of northwestern Italy. And the Savoys had a taste for Nebbiolo. Nestled into the rolling hills of Langhe, the Barolo DOCG includes 11 communes, one of which is the town of Barolo. There are 4,200 vineyard acres in the appellation and since the late 19th century growers have tried to identify their best vineyards. By marketing some vineyards as better quality than others, Barolo producers have followed the Burgundian custom of making single vineyard, or “cru” vineyard bottlings. As in neighboring Barbaresco, the Barolo DOCG requires that wines be 100% Nebbiolo, a grape thought of as the Pinot Noir of Italy. Records show that Nebbiolo was grown in the Piedmont as early as the 14th century, and despite being somewhat finicky – it is late to ripen and easily damaged by adverse weather --- Nebbiolo makes highly aromatic and powerful red wines. Until the mid-19th century Nebbiolos of Piedmont were vinified as sweet wines, though that ended in the late 19th century when a French oenologist was invited to Piedmont to show producers how to make dry reds. Barolo was made a DOC in 1966 and upgraded to DOCG status in 1980. Barolos must be aged at least three years, at least two of those years in wood. Barolos are tannic and robust and generally need at least five years to soften into complex, earthy wines.
This red grape is most often associated with Piedmont, where it becomes DOCG Barolo and Barbaresco, among others. Its name comes from Italian for “fog,” which descends over the region at harvest. The fruit also gains a foggy white veil when mature.