The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Damilano and Aldo Conterno

Posted on | September 1, 2015 | Written by David Gwo | No Comments

David Gwo 12.8.14My selections today feature two wines from Barolo, which in the world of wine is referred to as the “King of Wines, and the Wine of Kings.” Today’s two bottles are special for different reasons, but both demonstrate why Barolo earned its regal title.

1978 was one of the greatest Barolo vintages in history, yielding wines that still possess vibrancy today after almost 40 years. At the time, producers always blended their Nebbiolo grapes across all of their vineyard holdings. This was done to maintain consistency from vintage-to-vintage, but the downside was that the fruit from the best plots always got “muddled” in with everything else. In fact, this blending of multiple vineyards is a hallmark of traditionally made Barolos. Many “modern” producers opt to bottle single-vineyard expressions under the pretense that different sites produce different characteristics. However, this isn’t to say that one method is better than the other, it’s a preference and you’re allowed to like both! The 1978 Damilano Barolo demonstrates the longevity of traditionally styled Barolo from an iconic vintage. As an estate, Damilano has transitioned from bottling a single Barolo to bottling a line-up of single vineyard expressions over time.

The other Barolo today is a young one, and if you’ve been following IWM for a bit, it’s definitely a name you’ve seen before. Aldo Conterno was the son of Giacomo Conterno, whose estate produces some of the most sought after Barolos in the world. Aldo chose to pursue his own venture and wanted to make a style of Barolo that possessed a combination of both traditional and modern characteristics. The 2006 Granbussia Barolo Riserva is the estate’s flagship wine and is only bottled in the very best vintages. It represents a selection of the estate’s best grapes, coming primarily from the Romirasco vineyard. Not only was 2006 a significant year, but starting with this vintage, the family decided to drastically reduce yields and production of this wine to increase quality.

Damilano Barolo 1978 $199.99

Historically, the wines of Barolo were built to last and producers wanted them to be drinkable 20 years down the road. Vintages like 1978 stand as a testament to the greatness that was achieved even back then. This Barolo is a perfect example of perfectly mature Nebbiolo; there is just enough fruit on the palate to keep the wine “pretty,” but with tons of secondary and tertiary development. You’ll find notes of orange peel, leather, earth, and minerals. These are notes that only come with age, and they are what a true Barolo enthusiast looks for in a well aged wine.

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia 2006 $399.00

I’ve had the opportunity, or the privilege rather, to taste this wine on multiple occasions now and it never fails to impress. When you first open and taste this wine it’s a brick; lots of dark fruits, violets, tar, and spice. However, after a few hours, it begins to reveal itself and the layers begin to unfold. The structure is obviously massive, it has big tannins and raunchy acidity, but it is still enjoyable to taste and contemplate. It exemplifies the classic “iron fist in a velvet glove” and will develop gloriously over the course of a decade, likely more. This is one for both the cellar and the record books.

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